Comment: £660m spent on overseas transfers last year by English and Welsh clubs reawakens the debate about the game's funding of grassroots facilities


The revelation, made in Fifa’s Global Transfer Market 2014 report published Wednesday, that English and Welsh clubs spent £660million on overseas transfers last year, of which more than £50million was paid to agents, reawakens the debate about the game’s comparatively meagre funding of its grassroots facilities.

In November it was admitted by the Premier League that £100million was paid to agents in the previous two transfer windows, while the Football League clubs committed to pay agents £21m between July 2012 and June 2013 (a third by clubs in receipt of Premier League parachute payments).  That £120m total is ten times the £12m annually provided by the Premier League to grassroots facilities through the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund (the Football League does not contribute).

Premier League clubs will this year receive, depending on their finishing position and TV exposure, £60-£100m each from broadcast deals alone. Meanwhile playing fields across the country stand empty at weekends because they are too wet to be played on.

Not that the Premier League clubs are alone in their myopia. The Government contribute only £10m a year to the aforementioned fund and while they do support other initiatives they have also continued to sanction the selling off of school playing fields.

This when the number of children admitted to hospital for obesity-related reasons has quadrupled in ten years and diseases caused by sedentary living and bad eating habits cost the NHS more than £6 billion a year.

In a House of Lord’s debate last summer Lord McColl of Dulwich, former professor and director of surgery at Guy’s Hospital, said:

“Many conditions at the root of increasing demands on the NHS, like diabetes, high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks, were caused by obesity, he said. “This enormous obesity epidemic is bankrupting the NHS.”

The Goverment rapidly need to massively step up investment in better facilities as one increasingly favoured solution to the poor facilities for grassroots football is a switch to summer. As well as being a devastating blow to youth cricket this, combined with the decline in school sport, would result in thousands of youngsters doing very little exercise whatsoever from November to March.