Using sport to tackle deprivation is a winner

Wayne Rooney earns more per year than the FA hands to the Football Foundation, the official grass-roots charity

Share

For junior footballers, the rent is too damn high. Walsall Council put up the cost of hiring a pitch by 300 per cent last year, and similar price hikes have been reported in Manchester, Newcastle and London. When the Head of the FA Katy Simmons talks about the cost of facilities pricing amateurs out of the game, as she did last week, she could have had any number of pricey, waterlogged pitches in mind.

“Austerity measures,” said Simmons, are to blame. First the Government cuts local authority budgets. Next local authorities slash subsidies for sport. Finally the local pitch goes down in quality, or up in price, and your kid with a childhood to waste finds it easier to watch football on TV than find a game outside.

Is this just one of those uncomfortable but inevitable consequences of the austerity-programme, which the Tories and, now, Labour are committed to? Not entirely. Two options present themselves. The first is to strong-arm the Premier League into looking beyond its cash cow to the barren fields of Britain. A campaign, Save Grass Roots Football, called on the Coalition to force the Premier League to commit a greater slice of the £3bn raised from the sale of TV rights to the uglier side of the beautiful game. Nothing came of it. In a perfect world, the League would cough up. But when Wayne Rooney comes into your office wanting a new contract, and your season rests on his shoulders, you need every penny you can get. (Lest we forget, he earns £300,000 a week: and more per year than the entire £12m the FA hands to the Football Foundation, the official grass-roots charity).

The second option is to convince cash-strapped local authorities that sport isn’t a waste of money. How do you do this? The answer entails a long overdue rethink of what  grass-roots sport is for. As part  of the Olympic Legacy, the  Government has set itself the task of raising the number of people playing each week. Sadly, the numbers are falling away – hence the £1.6m funding cut the FA received last month. Clearly, someone needs to get out the tactics board. 

A report by Sport England, who allocate Government funding, notes that local authorities no longer want to fund “sport for sport’s sake”. Good. Instead they want to use it to support social objectives, such as reducing “deprivation”. Even better. I used to work for a London charity, Greenhouse, that puts that model into practice every day – providing kids in tough areas like Peckham with a package of sports coaching and mentoring designed to boost wellbeing off the field. Sport is a Trojan horse for social work. Throwing money at participation targets has produced next to nothing, so how about investing more in programmes that take a similar tack?

Correction: This piece was amended to reflect the fee subsidy provided by Burgess Park, Peckham to community renting of its football pitch. A £162 fee is paid by non-locals - a fee that drops to £86.40 for community games. Expensive for some, but not an insurmountable hurdle.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The law is too hard on sexting teenagers

Memphis Barker
 

Obama must speak out – Americans are worried no one is listening to them

David Usborne
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn