On 26th October two important 'news' items broke. The first was from a Government Select Committee who stated that "Threat to parks is a threat to nation's physical activity".
The report went on to state: The threat to the existence of public parks is a threat to the nation's physical and mental health, a select committee has been told by several experts.
While 2.6bn visits were made to Britain's 27,000 public green spaces last year, council budget cuts have had an impact on their maintenance, with funding falling from £3.1m to £2.6m over the last two years.
According to ukactive strategic projects director, Will Smithard, parks are "fundamental assets" that are "key to breaking down the barriers to activity people face", such as cost and time.
Citing a University of Exeter study, he said that outdoor exercise delivers an "estimated £2.2bn of health benefits" each year, and parks should not be overlooked in terms of the role they play in this."
"Parks are easy to access and free to use, so they have a major role to play in overcoming the physical inactivity crisis that we are currently facing," Smithard added. "We often talk about physical benefits of outdoor exercise, but the mental health benefits are equally important and something that we shouldn't lose sight of when assessing the importance of parks."
Smithard's evidence came during a Communities and Local Government Select Committee on the Future of Public Parks Inquiry.
Using the dispute between the latter and Stoke Gifford Parish Council over the use of the local park without paying toward maintenance, Smithard stressed that local authorities had to be supported so that parks could host a "broad range of activities".
Yet, on the very same day, the Football Association (FA) announced "First Parklife grassroots football hub launched in Sheffield" and went on to claim, with typical pomp, "The programme is The FA's bold plan to address poor facilities in grassroots football and an example of the governing body's commitment to football for all - through investment in pitches, facilities and participation programmes."
FA chief executive Martin Glenn also used the opportunity to announce plans for a national expansion of 'Parklife' - which will see multi-pitch football hubs built across England's urban heartland over the next five years with The FA, alongside the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), the Premier League and local partners, set to invest £200m in the project."
The BBC reported that; "The Football Association is helping to invest £200m as part of a scheme to improve grassroots football in England".
The 'Parklife' project will build 30 new all-purpose facilities by 2020 in a partnership between the FA, the Department for Culture Media and Sport, the Premier League and Sport England.
Interestingly, they used Hackney Marshes to illustrate their article; possibly the most iconic park football site in England!
One project, the SGP Sheffield Graves centre, opened on Wednesday.
"We will benefit for decades," said interim England manager Gareth Southgate. "When talking about player development, you're always thinking about short, medium and long-term strategies. It can't always be about what's right for the next 12 months."
"But the investment isn't always about producing that elite player. It's for kids and communities too."
At the beginning of October, it was reported that Derby City Council were cutting the maintenance of half their parks in an effort to save £27,000.
At a meeting of the council's Cabinet, councillors approved plans to reduce the number of council-run pitches from thiteen to seven. The council will maintain pitches at Alvaston Park, Sinfin Moor Park, Darley Fields, Chaddesden Park, Chellaston Park, Moorways and the Racecourse. Facilities will be withdrawn at Normanton Park, Osmaston Park, Rowditch, Vicarage Road, Arboretum and King George V playing fields in LIttleover.
Similar council cutbacks are happening all over the UK.
Thirty 3G hubs across the country at a cost of £200m are not going to solve the problems of inactivity or childhood obesity. Improving and maintaining council run natural turf pitches to a good standard stand a far better chance.
I do not understand how Government can allow council and/or school sports pitches to disappear in favour of a handful of sterile, plastic pitches simply because some marketing team has given them a posh name and 'superstars' are rolled out to deem them the best thing since sliced bread.
The money is clearly available, so why not spend it on thousands of natural turf pitches rather than thirty elitist synthetic ones?
Don't genuinely interested parties talk to each other anymore, or is it simply the money that talks these days?