These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the Southern Premier - just seven leagues below the Premier League. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton. After nearly 14 nomadic years we finally have a brand spanking new home in Slough.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

THE GRASSROOTS ISN'T GREENER

Printed in the Southern League Central Division game v Dunstable on Saturday 22nd February 2014. We won 4-0 in front of 262 people.

You would think that our football mad nation with apparently the best league ever, that grassroots football facilities would be the envy of the world. Where muddy fields, dog poo and dilapidated changing rooms would be a thing of the past. But we all know that's not the case and that the football world perfectly mirrors our unequal society.

Last year the Premier League income was a staggering 2.4 billion – of which they gave a paltry £12 million to the Football Foundation, or 0.5% of their riches. Having initially bowed to government pressure to give 5%, the league now insists that commitment was for one broadcasting rights deal only and, despite securing a
record £5.5 billion for 2013-16, has cut its funding to the Football Foundation.

So one MP launched a petition to ask for 7.5% of the Premierships income be given to grassroots campaign rather than wasting more TV money on increasing players wages. But less than a week to go it has astonishingly only got just over 30, 000 signatures. It would have attracted more with the backing of the 50
county FAs but not one replied when contacted about the campaign.

This week the government launched 'Moving More, Living More' initiative to build on the Olympic legacy, but as sports journalist David Conn told me "it should have been issued in 1997 and incredibly the document suggests they are just thinking how to increase activity. It's too little, too late. "

Despite all fine government words about getting more people involved in sport, 100,000 people have walked away from grassroots football since April 2012 and it is now behind swimming, athletics and cycling in the participation rates. Mick Baikie, national clubs services manager at the Football Association complained "one of the biggest challenges we face is facilities. We've got qualified coaches but we haven't got the facilities for them to coach and play. The big problem now is the public sector cuts – 80% of games are played on local authority sites that have been heavily subsidised in the past but we are starting to see an impact with the cuts. One council recently raised their fees from £400 per pitch, per season to £1,600. That's happening all over the country."

Lord Harris, Chairman of the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Committee has expressed his disappointment at the lack of movement by Government. "Our report endorsed the consensus that the 2012 Games were an outstanding success. The Government’s response certainly talks the right talk, particularly on sport in
school age children, but at a time when the UK faces an obesity epidemic, costing £20 billion a year, encouraging more physically active lives is of critical importance, and I think more investment than the Government are planning will be essential in the long term."

As one football coach pointed out "We don't look at the bigger picture in this country. If kids can play football regularly that will help in some way towards the obesity crisis and the strain that puts on the NHS. And it's not just about the football but about making friends, instilling discipline and helping the community."

While Cameron tells us 'money is no object' when it comes to the floods, wouldn't it make sense to tell the Premiership that not properly investing in our national game just isn't an option anymore.

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