£50m for grass roots is welcome but much still to do

Comment: The initiative is welcome and overdue, though the money may not go far considering the cost of some facilities

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The Independent Football

There must be an election looming. However, it is wrong to be churlish about George Osborne’s announcement that the Government is to plough £50m into grass-roots football facilities and coaching over the next five years.

The day after Professor Philip James, a veteran in the field of obesity studies, is quoted as saying the condition could “bankrupt” the NHS, the initiative is as welcome as it is overdue. It is also new money, not something previously announced, and since the Chancellor announced it, it is presumably election-proof as it is hard to envisage Labour, should the party get in, cutting such a scheme.

Congratulations are due to Greg Dyke and the Football Association. The chairman’s football hubs idea, unlike his B team flight of fancy, is well thought out and was evidently also checked out with involved parties. There is still a long way to go but the project has traction.

The next steps are raising the rest of the cash, then spending it wisely. Osborne spoke of the professional game chipping in to help make a £200m pot. The Premier League can be expected to step up.

Morally, it has little alternative, not least because its chief executive, Richard Scudamore, has often said the body only cut funding to the Football Foundation, which finances facilities, because the FA and Government did.

For the impecunious Football League, finding the cash is more problematic – unless the Premier League allows it to use the fine expected to be levied on QPR for breaching Financial Fair Play regulations. Expect some imaginative “payment in kind” deals if not.

Once raised, the cash has to be well used with schemes targeted in areas of most need, and where they can cover their own running costs. The Foundation has this expertise and should not be squeezed out by vested interests.

Even then, given the scheme is aiming for 150 hubs, £200m may not go far with the cost of a floodlit, full-size 3G pitch £550,000. You can double that if you add in bricks-and-mortar facilities.

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