'More money for grassroots with better coaches and pitches'

Tuesday 10 Mar 2015
Kelly Simmons addressed the National Game Conference at St. George's Park

"Better coaches and better facilities" are the benefits grassroots football can expect over the next few years, according to Football Association director Kelly Simmons.

Speaking at the 2015 National Game Conference at St. George’s Park on Monday night, Simmons said an unprecedented level of investment will be made to raise standards in this country – but stressed more work must be done if progress is to match ambition.

2015 National Game Conference

At St. George's Park
9-11 March

Following an opening speech from acting chief operating officer Nick Humby, Simmons restated the goals of The FA Chairman’s England Commission, where an extra £30m per year has been pledged to the grassroots game

She said: "There will be additional money coming in to help implement the National Game Strategy, bringing in better coaches and better facilities.

"This can only be of huge benefit to [grassroots football]. This means that the National Game board have listened to the grassroots, to the County FAs, who will now have greater freedom to spend their money wherever they see fit to their strategic priorities."

Among the priorities set out when the National Game Strategy set out in 2008 was to grow the number of clubs at grassroots level, and Simmons was happy to report major strides in that area.

“The scale of the game in this country is remarkable: we are 10 times bigger than any other team sport”

Kelly Simmons FA Director of National Game and Grassroots Football

"In the last four years we have grown from 110,000 to 119,000 teams," she said.

"The scale of the game in this country is remarkable: we are 10 times bigger than any other team sport.

"Women’s football is the third biggest sport in this country. Disability sport is the seventh biggest sport in the country.

She continued: "We must talk up our successes much more because there are some fantastic achievements out there."

However, Simmons outlined several areas in need of urgent improvement.

"The FA Chairman’s England Commission proposes unprecedented levels of grassroots investment but we have to remember why we are doing this.

“80% of facilities are financed by local authorities, so unless there is dramatic change in government policy, we have a broken model”

Kelly Simmons 

"At present over 80% of our facilities are financed by local authorities, so unless there is a dramatic change in government policy [where investment is being cut], then we have a broken model. It is really challenging.

"Fundamentally we have to work together to establish a different model in this country."

Simmons said girls’ football is another area requiring urgent action.

"If you look at participation figures across Europe we are pretty low: we have got to turn that around. 

"If we are to develop winning England sides we need to grow that base of players."

She added: "In boys' football there has been a massive growth but it is about keeping those players: at 13 or 14 participation drops.

"We have got to respond to what they need to keep these boys playing the game.

"These are the boys who are transitioning to 11-a-side and we need to keep hold of them."

The 2015 National Game Conference continues until Wednesday 11 March. Follow @StGeorgesPark for updates.

By James Callow Content manager At St. George's Park