Lack of sports facilities an election issue, warns Brooking

Grass-roots crusader must convince ministers that an industry awash with money still needs investment.

The public perception of Sir Trevor Brooking is a Mr Nice Guy sitting firmly astride the fence, slow to chide and swift to bless. But to start the elegant former West Ham and England midfielder off on favourite topics such as Government funding of sport or the coaching of young footballers is to light claret-and-blue touchpaper.

The public perception of Sir Trevor Brooking is a Mr Nice Guy sitting firmly astride the fence, slow to chide and swift to bless. But to start the elegant former West Ham and England midfielder off on favourite topics such as Government funding of sport or the coaching of young footballers is to light claret-and-blue touchpaper.

It was the former subject that won him an unexpected combination of notoriety and enemies in four years as chairman of Sport England from 1998 to 2002, and the latter one that helped make him the perfect candidate when the Football Association decided to appoint a director of football development 15 months ago.

Although immediately mentioned as an obvious caretaker whenever there is any question of the England manager's job falling vacant, he is much more involved with the opposite end of the sport's pyramid, a role that found him at Charlton Athletic's ground last week, helping to publicise "The Grass Roots Football Show". Billed as the Motor Show of football, in London's Docklands in July, it will nevertheless be Ford Focus rather than Ferrari, with coaching sessions, equipment displays and discussion groups all aimed at the half-million unpaid volunteers who keep the ball rolling from Stanley Park to Wanstead Flats.

Sir Trevor will make the keynote speech on 16 July, and could do worse than reprise his 10-minute rallying call at The Valley, delivered without a note. In that introduction and in a series of subsequent interviews, he returned persistently to the dual themes of chaotic funding and quality of coaching, linked by football's power as a tool for social cohesion. "My brief at the FA covers the national game, which is the grass roots, and the development side," he began, "which is something I feel very strongly about, especially the lack of investment in PE and school sport for a number of years. With an election on the horizon, I think you'll find sport gets a lot of mentions, but unfortunately not so much finance."

In front of a much smaller audience later in the day, Brooking would quietly reveal his own role in bringing about what is supposed to be a massive increase in such funding: "I went to a League Cup final at Wembley a few years ago and was moaning at the meal beforehand about PE in schools to the lady next to me, who said I ought to talk to her husband opposite. He turned out to be Sir Richard Wilson, the then head of the Civil Service, who got me a meeting with Alastair [Campbell] and eventually the PM. The PM works on about 16 top priorities, and PE and school sport became one of them. I came back from doing a radio commentary for Five Live listening to the Prime Minister at the party conference announcing £750 million for school sport. But the frustration is that, as we sit here four years later, less than 10 per cent of that has actually been spent, because the rest is stuck in the bureaucracy of delivery mechanisms.

"Football and sport have been really poor at lobbying," he adds, suggesting that election time offers the chance for sports enthusiasts everywhere to ask some pertinent questions. "There's a great opportunity when candidates are out in their constituencies. Why aren't they investing in local sports facilities? You've got obesity problems, the health service, targets to hit for physical activity... In the next decade, almost every secondary school in the country is to be refurbished, a multi-billion-pound operation. What I'm concerned about is, are there going to be quality sports facilities for use by that school, the local primary schools and the community in the evening and at weekends?"

Outside the Parliamentary Football Group - and perhaps even inside, as their report a year ago suggested - there is suspicion, however, about an industry perceived to be rolling in money. Brooking says: "One of my challenges at the FA is to get Cabinet ministers to understand the work football is doing at clubs like Charlton, which has a magnificent Football in the Community scheme, or Notts County, where 18 coaches are working in the community. The perception, unfortunately, is that it's an industry awash with money at the top end that Government doesn't need to invest in."

Brooking is keen to make the point that the Champions' League and Premiership are a long way removed from the grass roots and cannot, in any case, be expected to supply the £2 billion required to bring facilities up to scratch. In supporting football at the lowest levels and the youngest ages, he would hope to deliver "coaching for a social programme, helping to produce people with an all-round character, fitness and a good standard of behaviour."

But who will coach the coaches? Concerned that teaching for those children not taken up by club academies is "very fragmented and sometimes not very good", he is considering setting up a Coach Education Department, and targeting "the mums and dads who run their own teams at the weekend". Watching matches in local parks recently, he was dispirited not only by the ranting on the touchline, but by a lack of improvement in skills and technique from month to month. "The technical input is not good enough in the lower age-groups and we've got to get real quality coaches working there, so that any youngsters who want to get better understand how they can become better.

"At the moment, they're getting a lot of encouragement and enthusiasm, but not coaching. When they whack the ball upfield 20 yards from anyone, they get a 'well done, good clearance', but actually they've given it straight back to the opposition."

As that is an accusation that can be levelled at English teams considerably higher up the scale - right at the very top, it sometimes seems - the scale of the task for a director of football development is clear. But, nice guy or not, do not underestimate the current incumbent and his determination to do something about it.

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Kellie Bright as Linda Carter and Danny Dyer as Mick Carter

EastEnders Christmas specials are known for their shouty, over-the-top soap drama but tonight the show has done itself proud thanks to Danny Dyer.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy
tvCall the Midwife Christmas Special
Sport
Laura Trott and Jason Kenny are preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there