The Football Association is to look at new formats for football matches and will encourage ground staff to maintain their pitches via an app in a push to do more with less and save the grassroots game.
As participation sports returns next week, a new four-season strategy – Survive, Revive and Thrive – will lay out the FA’s vision for the game post-Covid. Included in £180m of funding is money for pitches, alongside commitments to help clubs with fees and funding for football in deprived communities. But with the game and its governing body suffering financial challenges because of the pandemic, the money will have to work hard.
“I’m convinced that football has a massive role to play in bringing the nation back to its feet by bringing communities together and improving physical and mental health,” said the FA’s director of football development, James Kendall. “Our priority is going to be to help the clubs and the volunteers who run them to survive.”
Financial commitments include £2.5m for clubs to meet their FA affiliation fees this season and next. The FA will also put up £14m for maintaining pitches over the next four years, and improving the quality of 5,000. Alongside the money will be an app, Pitch Power, which will allow ground staff to upload images of their pitches to receive relevant advice from experts.
Another four-year target will be to enable girls to have equal access to the sport, with the strategy stating: “Every young girl wanting to play football should have the opportunity to do so at school or at a local club.”
For boys and men, the key phrase is retention, focusing on the key age points of 12-18, as well as 35 and 55, when they tend to drop out of the game. This means that for younger men games should be “as actively engaging as they can”, Kendall said, with the FA open to exploring new formats which facilitate greater involvement for players, and for shortening the length of 11-a-side matches. At older ages there will be an increased focus on walking football.
“Ultimately grassroots football is a game for everyone,” Kendall said. “It has always been central to what we do at the FA, but perhaps in the past we have been more tactical in our approach. We now want to take a visionary, strategic view over the next four years.”