The FA have partnered with BUCS and ECFA

The Football Association has partnered with British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) and English Colleges FA (ECFA) to support the development of grassroots football across England through the introduction of ‘FA College & University Grassroots Hubs’.

The FA Grassroots Hub model calls on Further and Higher Education establishments to forge partnerships with the local football community by offering access to their playing facilities - creating greater opportunities to play and boost participation numbers. The project receives investment from Sport England’s via the ‘Towards an Active Nation Strategy’, which supports National Governing Bodies in the implementation of sports participation projects.

There are currently 167 College and University Grassroots Hubs and The FA aims to engage 250k participants through the programme by March 2021.

Once accepted onto the programme Colleges and Universities are tasked with writing a football development plan and demonstrating how they intend to support the following programme aims:

  1. Retain & grow male and female, adult and youth participation.
  2. Develop inclusive playing pathways for football & futsal that offers a wide variety of flexible inclusive playing opportunities for the local community.
  3. Embedded student leadership programmes at every College & University hub, which generates more & better coaches, referees and volunteers to service the grassroots game.
  4. Open up facilities to support grassroots football clubs to gain access to sustainable use of new/existing sports facilities.
This is achieved via a collaborative approach involving a wide range of football stakeholders including the education sectors (schools, colleges & universities), County FAs, affiliated clubs and local charities.

FA Director of Participation and Development Kelly Simmons MBE hopes the move will give more students the potential to follow her pathway into the sport, as her first link to The FA was formed when she captained the University of Warwick women’s team and subsequently through her role as the university’s sports sabbatical officer. "Further and Higher Education institutions play a key role in supporting The FA, getting as many boys and girls as possible into football," said Simmons. "FA College and University Football Hubs create an environment that enables players to develop, creating lots of flexible playing opportunities to access football, whilst providing access to high quality facilities."

How to get involved?

Firstly identify your local College & University Grassroots Hub. Contact the College or University and identify the right opportunity for you. It’s really that simple. NB: The football offer at each hub can vary in terms of type of activity, frequency and cost. 

What does a hub look like?

The University of Central Lancashire has partnered with Sir Tom Finney Preston Soccer Centre to create a hub for football which spans across Lancashire. The model is based upon the concept of recruiting, training and deploying student coaches, referees and volunteers from the University into a wide variety of football development projects across the Region. The model aspires to initially engage participants from a multitude of backgrounds and then signpost these participants into regular football activity connected with the club. An example of this is the recently launched FA Wildcats Centre which is aimed at girls aged 5-11 and operates out of the University’s Sports Arena.

The role of the University of Central Lancashire is to identify and recruit the student volunteers and provide access to world class football facilities at UCLAN Sport Arena. The club then creates the football projects, supports the volunteers, and operates the teams which the participants are signposted into. Lancashire County FA then support by providing technical assistance to the players & workforce.

It is a holistic delivery model which has had a tremendous impact on participation in Preston and the wider Region and now consists of 118 volunteers, including 55 coaches and over 500 weekly participants. The club delivers football for the entire community and operates teams for youth and adult, male and female, including disabled specific football teams.

FA Head of Participation Steven Day comments “One of The Football Associations primary objectives is to provide playing opportunities for everyone in a rapidly changing game’. The College & University Hubs is an excellent example of how football can bring stakeholder together to create an environment that provides ‘For All’ and can be used as a vehicle for positive change, enabling people from diverse backgrounds to experience the social, physical and mental benefits of participation in football.

Stats and figures:

  • During season 2017-18 FA College & University Grassroots Hubs engaged 128,918 (21% female) with 16% of these participants transitioning into affiliated grassroots football clubs
  • 11% of FA Wildcats Centres are now operating from College & University Sports Facilities
  • There are 374 male & 226 female student football activators developing the game, with 53% of graduate Activators continuing to volunteer once leaving College or University.
  • 68% of hub players were also involved in coaching, volunteering, refereeing and administration, illustrating how involvement in hub activities contributes towards increasing the football
  • 19 of the current England Women’s senior squad played in AoC Sport and BUCS, College & University football leagues.

Want to find out more?

For more information about football in Further Education:

Visit AoC Sport

For more information about football in Higher Education:

Visit BUCS