Wales

Euro 2016: 'Invest to develop football in Wales'

Gareth Bale Image copyright Reuters

Wales' participation in Euro 2016 is "one chance in a million" to invest in grassroots football, its most capped player has said.

The FAW Trust said there was a "real threat" to developing young players with looming council cuts to facilities.

Neville Southall, who represented Wales 92 times, said: "We won't get success if we ignore grassroots football."

The Welsh Government said it provided £1m a year to develop the sport.

Wales' qualification for Euro 2016 in France marked the first time the national side has featured at a major tournament since 1958.

Speaking to the BBC's Sunday Politics Wales, former goalkeeper Southall said: "We don't know what's going to happen in the future so we've got to look at this as a one chance in a million to change the way we do things in grassroots football.

"We need every kid in school playing football, we need every kid being given the dream they can be the next Gareth Bale.

"But then we need to give them the facilities to play on and give good coaching.

"We won't get success if we ignore grassroots football and we need to seriously think about where the kids go and where they play football."

Ex-Wales international and former chairwoman of Sport Wales, Prof Laura McAllister, described the tournament as a "huge opportunity for sport in Wales".

"In terms of legacy, I hope it will be that every boy and girl in Wales will have the opportunity to take part in football at whatever level," she said.

"What we really need is a much stronger joined-up relationship between local councils, schools and clubs and sports organisations.

"If you don't have enough pitches, children can't play. It's as simple as that."

The FAW Trust, which works to develop the sport at grassroots level, said "more people in Wales are playing football than ever before".

However, the organisation's head of growth, Jamie Clewer, said: "We have a real challenge as we move forward with some of the local government cuts around access to facilities and investment.

"That's a real threat to grassroots football so we need to make sure we're working together with national and local government to make sure pitches are accessible."

Image copyright Wales News Service

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: "We provide nearly £1m each year, via Sport Wales, to support the development of grassroots football.

"We hope people across the country are inspired to take up the sport by the historic success of Chris Coleman's Wales team."

A spokesman for Sport Wales said: "Significant investment has been made in Welsh football.

"We know that football has grown in participation and the current enthusiasm is another catalyst to keep growing the game."

  • Sunday Politics, BBC One Wales, 11:30 BST, 19 June

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