Grass-roots participation: How 1972 paper shows problem has been left to drift for decades
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.”
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.
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.
Latest in Sport
- 1 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 2 How to turn off/stop 'seen by' on Facebook: Disable it to make your chats seem less passive aggressive
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
- 5 Buckingham Palace guard who attacked passers-by in 'most most violent piece of CCTV footage' police officer had seen walks free
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election