CEO Blog: The grass pitch revolution starts here
The grassroots football community received a huge boost from the Chancellor in his budget speech last week – committing an additional £155m over the next 3 years to build and improve grassroots football facilities across the country. In the 21 years since the Football Foundation was created by the Premier League, The FA and Government, we have awarded more than 20,400 grants to improve facilities worth more than £770m – but there is still so much more to do – and the funding committed by the Government on Wednesday is going to have a huge impact on communities up and down the country, allowing us to unlock the power of more pitches and transform even more lives.
We need to ensure communities have access to the facilities they need and deserve. A key priority for the Foundation is to revolutionise the landscape of grass pitches up and down the country. They are essential to grassroots football with 87% of the affiliated game being played on natural grass. Yet, the biggest issue consistently facing clubs is their pitches. In the last full season alone, over 150,000 matches were called off due to pitches being unplayable. We know that more opportunities to play benefits not only physical health but mental wellbeing, the places we live and the local economy too. And this feels even more vital as the country starts its recovery from the impact of Covid-19.
Our job at the Football Foundation is to provide the grassroots football community with the knowledge and tools they need to improve the quality of their grass pitches. If we are successful fewer matches will be postponed, and more people can play more football. We will be working with clubs and facilities to transform the quality of grass pitches across the country to reach the target of 20,000 'good' quality grass pitches in the next 10 years. When we achieve this, it will mean an additional 30,000 games of football a weekend will be able to take place.
This starts with clubs and organisations that are responsible for maintaining a grass pitch completing a pitch inspection using PitchPower - a web app that is free and accessible to all. PitchPower allows clubs to easily and quickly submit accurate data which is less time-intensive and more efficient than in-person inspections. Once an inspection is submitted, Regional Pitch Advisers at the Grounds Management Association produce an assessment report with bespoke advice and recommendations to improve the grass pitch quality at a site.
If the pitches aren’t up to scratch, eligible Clubs and facilities can then apply for funding from the Football Foundation to support pitch improvements identified through the PitchPower app. A quick and straightforward way to get started on improving pitches right at your fingertips!
In its trial phase last season, PitchPower helped to inspect almost 5,000 pitches. These inspections have led to 446 grants being issued worth £8.6m, all of which has gone towards improving 1,564 pitches.
We’re excited about the challenge ahead. Grass pitches are the bedrock of the English grassroots game and, working alongside our Funding Partners, the Football Foundation is on a mission to ensure everyone has access to a quality grass pitch. As PitchPower is rolled out and used by more clubs and organisations, we can deliver the funding and resources needed to improve the nation’s grass pitches and support the groundskeeping workforce who maintain them. More people will be lacing up their boots and playing on grass pitches than ever before.
Long live the grass pitch revolution!
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