Extra time: Government cutbacks in local authority spending threaten youth sport - Premier League - Football - The Independent

Extra time: Government cutbacks in local authority spending threaten youth sport

 

This week the Health and Social Care Information Centre revealed a third of year six primary school pupils (age 10 or 11) are obese or overweight, with children in urban areas most likely to be affected.

This will come as no surprise to anyone involved in youth sport. As last week’s Dossier revealed, only 400 of England’s 38,000 football pitches are 3G (the artificial turf that mimics a good grass surface), which means that most weekends in winter many children (and adults) have their matches cancelled. Other children do not even want to attempt to play sport at venues whose facilities often lack the most basic requirements and instead sit indoors watching TV, playing electronic games, and getting fatter.

Even when the pitches are playable, Government cutbacks in local authority spending threaten youth sport. Many councils are seeking either to reduce the already limited maintenance provided or increase hire fees.

One such was Sefton on Merseyside, which proposed increasing fees for pitches used by under-11s from £180 a season to £600. However, a protest organised by Kenny Saunders, a former professional footballer now coaching kids at Woolton Football Club, has persuaded the council to back down. It is a victory, but only up to a point. Woolton run 53 teams, but the pitches they use have no toilet.

Saunders, whose former charges include Joey Barton and Tony Hibbert, organised a Merseyside-wide protest against the fees rise last week, with thousands of children forgoing their weekend match. He has also involved Everton, Liverpool and Tranmere Rovers. As pointed out in these pages last week, the Premier League, with the £5.5bn bonanza of the new TV deal, has an opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives on a national scale and it is good to see clubs taking up the issue, even if it is the Government which has the true responsibility for the nation’s health.

Saunders hopes to build a national movement and is targeting a 1 per cent cut of the Premier League deal for grass roots. At £600,000 to build from scratch a floodlit 3G pitch, that would be enough to build half the pitches still needed to meet the playing and training requirements of the country’s 120,000 teams – though if facilities are provided it is very likely participation would rise.

Good luck to him, but where neither the Government nor the professional game is prepared to get involved the solution may lie in socially aware private enterprise. Paul Bracewell, the former England, Everton and Sunderland footballer, is involved in Complete Football, which has one base in the North-east at Gosforth Park and, serendipitously for the children of Sefton, is planning a second at Walton Park. There will be plenty of toilets.

Bracewell’s company is profit-making, but the corporates and adult players effectively subsidise youth football – together with sponsors – enabling a £1-a-head weekend charge. The aim is to roll the centres out nationally. “There is massive demand,” said Bracewell.

Indeed there is.

Twitter.com/GlennMoore7

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week