The numbers of teams offering men the chance to play full 11-a-side football is dropping, figures released by the Football Association today will show, with more than 1600 sides disappearing across the country in the last three years alone.
According to the National Game Board, there are now 30,335 sides throughout England providing football in its original format, down from more than 32,000 in 2008. The FA had hoped, as part of the National Game Strategy developed three years ago, to retain the same number of teams in the four-year period between 2008 and 2012.
Kelly Simmons, the Head of National Game, admitted as she unveiled the FA's plans to invest a further £200 million into grassroots football over the next four years that she regards the failure to maintain the health of the full men's game as her “biggest disappointment.”
There are, though, a number of notable successes in the FA's figures. The number of teams across most other age and sex groups are either on or exceeding the game's governing body's targets, while some £253 million has been invested by the FA, the Premier League, the Football Foundation and a number of other bodies into facilities across the country.
Perhaps most importantly, the FA has succeeded in recruiting 4,000 additional referees in the three years since 2008, meaning there are now at least 26,771 active officials in the amateur game. That figure is expected to be increased in January, when another count of the number involved is taken.