By Tony Attwood
Who would you trust the most out of this group when it comes to providing facilities for children’s football and for the amateur adult game?
- The Football Association
- Local Councils
- Private contractors who are paid by local councils to run sports provision.
- The rest of us (because we are all in the Big Society, and so it is our responsibility as the Prime Minister has told us).
If you are the slightest bit like me, the answer is “none of them, not once inch”. The FA is so inept and useless that even Sports England withdrew all its funding in the light of its gross incompetence and inability to make a difference.
The local councils are political bodies, and some of them really do have people on board who would like to make a difference rather than bathe in the glory of being called a councillor, but their funding has been ripped to shreds by a rapacious government who are the inheritors of the “big bang” in the city of London which gave bankers the freedom to steal our money and spend it in their private casinos.
And since when have private contractors who bid for public funds had the public good in mind? Just talk to the hospital trusts who are now borrowing money from the banks to pay off the private contractors who bought the right to make money out of hospitals.
Indeed since when do private contractors think? This week I came across one borough where the contractors dutifully painted the grass with the pitch markings. Two weeks later they cut the grass as per their contract. The markings vanished. They didn’t replace them because it wasn’t in the contract. A pitch with no markings.
So what chance do children who want to learn the game or adults who want to play as a way of staying fit and enjoying themselves, have of finding a pitch?
About minus ten on a scale of one to five.
The FA lay down laws about the size of pitches that youngsters should play on, but there are few such pitches. The FA want a respect zone to keep parents five yards back from the pitch so they don’t assault the ref and restrict their pushing and shoving to the parents of the opposition. But there is not even a facility to install that in most cases.
Football at these lower levels is utterly dependent on the goodwill and dedication of people who find supporting grass roots football worth doing. They exist outside of all national bodies, and don’t own their own pitches so they can’t improve the quality of the ground, let alone put in artificial pitches. County level football doesn’t want to know.
It is into this desperate arena of neglect for children’s football in particular, that the FA steps with its latest whizzo scheme. OK, they say, we lost all the Sports England funding because of gross incompetence, but it wasn’t our fault, it rained.
In fact it didn’t – in the period that Sports England measured the FA’s performance it didn’t rain – but don’t let stop the national press running the excuse without even checking the weather charts.
Now the FA wants to invest more money, building 150 “football hubs” across England to transform football. Greg Dyke, says it will deliver a “radical new approach” to grassroots football that would reverse years of neglect of waterlogged council facilities by investing £230m in new 3G pitches and overhauling its approach to youth coaching.”
No word about the lost Sports England funding then. Just give us more money.
The FA want to build 600 new all weather 3G pitches, focused on 30 of the country’s biggest cities, over six years.
And who will pay for this now that the FA is utterly weighed under with debt from Wembley and can’t get state aid through Sports England because… well you know.
“In the end it’s about money and we don’t control the bulk of money in football, It’s going to take some hard choices,” said Dyke.
Which is Dykespeak for “we don’t have it and we don’t know where it is, but I’m going to look behind the sofa.”
The Football Foundation gets £12m a year each from the FA and the Premier League and £10m from the government. Dykeland needs £50m just for starters. They want others to pay and laughably there has even been talk of the FA – the FA!!! – asking the local councils for money. Local councils which are going round turning off street lights (which is the perfect way to increase street crime) because they can’t afford to keep them on.
Dyke wants local authorities to make a one-off capital investment in the new pitches and then hand over the running of them to the FA.
Shall I say that again?
No for health and safety reasons I’d better not.
So here we have a plan from a grossly indebted organisation – in debt because of its own decision to build its own monument in Wembley when there were plenty of grounds that could have been used instead. A plan with no funding.
Helen Grant told Greg where to go with his plans. She’s sports minister and she said, “I am keen to see what more we can do to help further improve the nation’s facility stock, putting 3G pitches in places that need them most, and I am continuing discussions with the football authorities on this front.”
Translated that means, if there are political points to be scored from supporting this, I will do it, but don’t expect money.
English football needs reform from the bottom up – but instead of putting people in charge of reforming the game who can do it we have in charge an organisation so grossly incompetent it can’t even keep money it is freely given, and which runs up insane bills on an unwanted and unnecessary HQ.
I’ll continue my review of the catastrophe that is English football in the near future.
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