Grass-roots participation: How 1972 paper shows problem has been left to drift for decades


Football Editor

The decline in participation that shamed the Football Association on Thursday has been decades in the making.

Forty-two years ago, the FA compiled a report on grass-roots facilities as part of a submission to the House of Lords Select Committee on Sport and Leisure. While parts of it place the report firmly in its time (according to one quote football was “the third most popular activity after swimming and ballroom dancing”) other parts could have been written yesterday.

“Complaints about the standard of maintenance of public pitches are very common…”; “the relatively poorer facilities encountered by players outside the school environment are an important factor in the fall-off in participation…”; “dressing-room accommodation for footballers was either non-existent or very poor.”

Glenn Moore: Sport England - Councils make cuts and political class has lost interest

The report goes on: ‘The importance of adequate washing facilities in an activity such as football is obvious, yet in many instances provision was totally lacking or considered to be substandard…”; “overall improvement in basic washing and changing facilities is high on the list of priorities expressed by grass-roots players and administrators…”; “a major difficulty for many clubs in relation to training is to find a suitable area to use in the dark winter months…”

All these complaints are as relevant today as they were then. Yet when the Football Foundation was rebranded in October as the Premier League and FA Facilities Fund (a new name, but no new money) Alex Horne, the FA’s £528,000-a-year general secretary, seemed surprised 84 per cent of respondents to FA research wanted more money invested in facilities.

More than anything this underlined how out of touch senior echelons of the FA had become from the grass-roots game. Horne, and his many predecessors, have been far more interested in Team England, Wembley Stadium and World Cup bids than the far less glamorous business of looking after people who play football for fun rather than for money.

The great unwashed (literally in most cases because of broken showers) do not ask for much, just a playable pitch with civilised changing facilities nearby. As any FA bigwig would have noticed had he (always “he”) bothered to visit the nearest park, in far too many parts of the country even this modest request is not met.

FA get £1.6, warning to up grassroots participation

The 1972 report also recorded a “considerable latent demand” for all-weather areas – the precursor of artificial turf, and the “gross inadequacy of provision in inner[-city] areas”. Again, no change there. It noted that an audit of pitches was difficult because there was no national register and suggested it was “necessary if adequate planning for the game’s future is to be undertaken”. That took four decades to implement, but at least it has been done.

After suggesting that government should pay for better facilities and more all-weather pitches, the report concluded: “Football itself may have to do more.”

To the detriment of at least two generations of footballers this recommendation, like most of the others, was also ignored.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas