Graham Taylor and Graeme Le Saux welcome 26% leap in people playing sport at sites upgraded by the Football Foundation

Graeme Le Saux

Graeme Le Saux

Graham Taylor, England Manager between 1990-93, joined former Chelsea and England defender, Graeme Le Saux, in welcoming the publication of the Football Foundation’s latest Annual Review, which evidences an average increase of 25.8% in the number of people playing sport at facilities that were enhanced with targeted investment through the Football Foundation model.

The newly-published figures evidence how facilities funded by the Foundation through contributions from its principal Funding Partners, the Premier League, The FA and the Government, through Sport England, have recorded substantial increases in participation.

Last year alone, there was a year-on-year average increase in football being played at those sites of 11% compared to 2013.  These figures clearly demonstrate the effect that properly-targeted facilities investment can have in encouraging more people to play sport, leading to a more active and healthier population.  Most of the Foundation’s investment is focused on third generation artificial grass pitches (3G AGP) with floodlights, which provides a consistent, high quality, all-weather surface for coaching and matches. Therefore, this investment is not only increasing the numbers playing football, but is also significantly improving the quality of home-grown talent.

The Review also shows that over 23,000 coaching qualifications were achieved at those facilities, with nearly 25 million hours of sporting activity taking place, something that was praised by Football Foundation Ambassadors Taylor and Le Saux.

To achieve these substantial participation increases, the Football Foundation works closely with the County FAs, to identify areas where the Foundation investment will have the greatest impact in terms of its strategic targets: deprived areas, where health inequalities and poor facilities are the greatest; and where close links can be made with local professional football clubs who use the facilities to deliver community outreach work. The Foundation and the County FAs work together with applicants and other local stakeholders to create an effective Football Development Plan (FDP) for the facility.  The FDP is the vision for how football will be delivered at the facility; it maps out over a five-year period how best to maximise a facility’s usage for the benefit of local football and the community in general.

The Foundation’s key achievements from last year outlined in the report:

  • an average 11% growth in the number of people playing football at sites [1] developed with Foundation Funders’ investment.
  • an average 25.8% leap in the number of people who played multi-sport.
  • 700,206 people playing different sports at Foundation-developed facilities.
  • enjoying 24,942,136 hours of sporting activity.
  • 23,558 coaching qualifications gained at those facilities.
  • 20,500 new footballers were created thanks to the Foundation’s grassroots club development scheme, Grow the Game.

The Annual Review details the investment and impact of each of the programmes that the Foundation delivers.  This includes the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which by far the largest investment scheme that the Foundation delivers, funded by the Premier League, The FA and Government, via Sport England.  The Review also covers other programmes that are delivered through the Foundation, such as Barclays Spaces for Sports and the Mayor of London: Sports Facilities Fund, which also employ the Foundation’s advanced systems to deliver facilities investment programmes on their behalf to deliver maximum impact and value for money outcomes.

Graham Taylor

Graham Taylor

Graham Taylor said: “I’ve visited Football Foundation facilities across the country and have seen at first-hand the enjoyment that local people are getting from them. It’s everyone from toddlers – boys and girls – right through to veterans teams. These facilities are more than football pitches; they are community hubs for people to stay fit and healthy. 

“The Foundation’s 15 years of experience in delivering high value football facilities investment ensures that money from the Premier League, The FA and the Government, via Sport England, is not wasted and achieves the greatest possible impact and are financially sustainable for years into the future.

“As well as well achieving huge increases in sports participation, more than 23,500 people earned coaching qualifications at sites that the Foundation directed investment into. In fact, as their latest Annual Review demonstrates, the Foundation lead the field in grassroots facilities investment to such an extent that organisations like Barclays and the Mayor of London have taken advantage of their advanced systems to deliver their own facilities-focused corporate social responsibility programmes. 

“The Football Foundation is one innovation that football and government must take both full credit for and full advantage of when it comes to improving the country’s local football infrastructure.”

Graeme Le Saux said: “The Football Foundation’s expert work in improving our country’s grassroots infrastructure by delivering the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund is there for all to see. To think that facilities enhanced by the Foundation’s targeted investment meant that nearly twenty-five million hours of sporting activity was undertaken last year on high quality surfaces, day and night and in all weathers is absolutely fantastic. 

“By getting more people taking part in the game at the grassroots level the Foundation is increasing the nation’s footballing talent pool. Not only does this mean more people playing the game but it means more people playing the game on quality surfaces, not quagmires where it is impossible to develop technical skills, or even get a game because the pitch is waterlogged! 

“By investing in the areas of most need, the 3G pitches that the Football Foundation delivers are creating strong links with professional clubs, too. This means that more youngsters than ever before are receiving professional, age appropriate, coaching to help them hone their skills and improve player pathways to league clubs.”

Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, added: “Our latest Annual Review demonstrates, once again, the impact that investment from our Funding Partners – the Premier League, The FA and the Government (via Sport England) – is having on this country’s grassroots football infrastructure and our national game. 

“Our role is to do everything we can to ensure that the funding entrusted to us is delivered to where it is going to have maximum impact and deliver value for money outcomes over the lifetime of each facility.  The Foundation is an incredibly lean and highly efficient organisation, which has developed state-of-the-art processes and capabilities to ensure best in class delivery on behalf of our key Funding Partners, the Premier League, The FA and the Government (via Sport England); but also on behalf of Barclays Bank and the Mayor of London who have seen the benefit of employing our systems to deliver their capital investment programmes. 

“As the Annual Review also shows, our focus on deprived communities and creating solid links with local professional football clubs means that we are creating more opportunities for people to play football where it is most needed, with many participants now receiving quality coaching via professional club community schemes or gaining FA coaching qualifications themselves.” 

The Football Foundation was founded by the Premier League, The FA and the Government in 2000 to improve grassroots facilities, with aim of improving the quality of the experience of playing grassroots football, especially in deprived communities where health inequalities are the greatest and sports facility provision is the poorest; thereby, increasing the numbers of people participating in football and increasing the quality of skill levels. Since then the Foundation has awarded direct grants worth £513m and has secured an additional £728m in partnership funding.  This means more than £1.2bn has been invested into the grassroots game via the Football Foundation.

The Football Stadia Improvement Fund, which is the Football Foundation’s sister organisation, provides financial support to football clubs to improve the safety and comfort of their fans. This Funding comes from the Premier League and ensures that much-needed ground improvement projects throughout the National Football League system can be undertaken.

Read the Football Foundation and the Football Stadia Improvement Fund Annual Reviews, in full, by clicking through the following links:

  • Football Foundation
  • FSIF Annual Review
  • You can see the Foundation’s full investment and impact figures since 2000, including a breakdown by county, here.
  • The Foundation’s investment model is creating jobs which are benefitting the economy. Read about that impact here.

[1] These figures are calculated by analysing the number of participants at a facility (that is still within its five-year development plan for growth), and comparing it to the previous year’s analysis of participation at that site.

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