FA grassroots survey reveals pitch concerns among players

Grassroots
Grassroots funding will increase from £60m to £260m over the next four years

The quality and availability of pitches is the biggest factor in how often people in England play football, says the biggest grassroots survey ever conducted by the Football Association.

More than 28,750 players, coaches, referees and volunteers replied to the poll, which also highlighted concerns about the standard of coaching.

But 75% aimed to maintain or increase their involvement next season.

The FA will invest a record £260m into grassroots over the next four years.

"Addressing the problem of poor quality facilities is one of the areas where we have earmarked significant additional investment," said FA director for participation and development Kelly Simmons.

She told BBC Radio 5 live that there has been a "chronic problem" with poor pitches and introducing new all-weather 3G artificial surfaces, particularly in cities, was "integral into everything we want to achieve".

More than half (52%) of respondents said football is the most value-for-money sport to take part in - beating cycling (36%) and running (32%).

According to the latest Sport England survey, 1.9 million people take part in football each week, but the FA lost £1.6m of public funding after a drop in participation figures in 2014.

Goalposts on a pitch near homes
FA chairman Greg Dyke has pledged up to 1,000 artificial pitches

How bad are amateur pitches?

About 83% of amateur football matches take place on council-run pitches, which the FA has previously said are in an "abhorrent state".

Squeezes on council budgets have seen costs rise for local teams, but national game senior development manager Pete Ackerley said last year that building more sustainable artificial pitches would help solve the problem.

The FA wants to bring the number of all-weather 3G artificial surfaces in line with some of its European counterparts.

Part of this will come under the 'Parklife' scheme which will see the creation of 'hubs' in cities, a scheme which is being piloted in Sheffield.

FA chairman Greg Dyke said last year that grassroots football was in a "degree of crisis".

He pledged a 50% increase in the total number of full-size, publicly accessible 3G artificial grass pitches across England, to more than 1,000.

Ackerley said: "We are seeing a lot of players will play more if we get the environments right. We're finding that the better the pitch, people will play more, and absolutely more people will play."

Coaching is rated best amongst younger age groups
Coaching is rated best among younger age groups

Coaching worries

When it comes to coaching standards, the survey revealed high satisfaction ratings among youth players (aged 10 to 15). However, satisfaction falls among older players.

The poll also revealed some concerns about the cost of coaching.

The average price paid for a Level 1 coaching qualification in the last 12 months was £90, with a Level 2 course costing, on average, £208.

Approval ratings among female players about pitch availability and quality, changing facilities, refereeing and coaching standards are higher than in the men's game.

FA chief executive Martin Glenn said: "The scale of the response demonstrates the level of commitment that exists to improve the grassroots game and reminds us - if we ever need it - who we are representing and what we are striving to achieve.

"There are lots of positives, we are listening and ready to act where needed."

Key statistics from the survey

  • 76% of volunteers will continue in their roles next season, 19% do not know and 6% will not.
  • 28% of players are dissatisfied with the regular pitch they play on and one in five (22%) of those will play less football next season.
  • 33% of players satisfied with their pitch will play more football next season.

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