The Dyke Commission’s first report was sent back by the football community with “could do better” stamped across it. In its second report it has. The proposal for a network of football hubs, featuring 3G all-weather pitches, run and financed by a partnership between the game and local authorities, is an imaginative solution to the crisis at the grassroots detailed in The Independent this week. It just might work – up to a point, that is.
There are still questions to be answered as to financing, in particular how much cash can be levered out of a seemingly uninterested Government and from the business community. But with regional devolution on the political agenda it might just be an idea whose time has come.
The basic principle is not a new one. The FA conceded in a submission to Parliament back in 1972 it should consider buying land to lessen its reliance on local authority and educational establishments for pitch provision. Even by English football’s lethargic standards, 42 years is a long wait.
Nevertheless, Greg Dyke and his team deserve praise for what appears a well thought out initiative.
Yet it is a measure of the neglect suffered by the grassroots that even increasing 3G pitches to 1,022 by 2020 will meet only half the need identified by the Football Foundation two years ago. The shortfall will be only partially ameliorated if grass pitches begin to receive the maintenance they need.
The second element of the report addresses the shortage of qualified coaches. While it correctly identifies the problems, and suggests some sensible in-house restructuring, no solutions are offered to two of the most pressing and interlinked issues: the high cost of courses, and the poor pay rates for coaching.
If coaching can be transformed into a career choice premium charges for the higher-level courses can be justified, making it easier to reduce entry-level costs for people whose ambitions stretch no further than teaching their children how to play the game.
If Dyke can find a way around that conundrum and implement the other reforms, his tenure will leave a valuable legacy.