The Pitch Improvement Programme (PIP) will deliver improvements to more than 2,000 grass pitches – a central pillar of the organisation’s 2015/19 Strategy for Participation and Development.
PIP will provide a range of support services to grassroots clubs, club volunteers and groundsmen including on-site evaluations with practical advice and recommendations.
It will also include a range of measures to help develop the skills and knowledge of the volunteers and groundsmen including seminars and workshops.
In addition to the commitment to improve grass pitches, The FA has also pledged to spend £36m on facility improvements and new developments directly through the Premier League and FA Facilities Fund managed by the Football Foundation.
Further large-scale funding has also been dedicated to building a series of football hubs across 25 key cities – a pilot scheme is currently being constructed in Sheffield ahead of the next grassroots football season – with discussions in progress with the Government and Premier League for similar contributions for the wider roll-out.
“We have committed to investing £260m to address the problem of poor quality facilities”
Kelly Simmons MBE FA director
Kelly Simmons MBE, FA director for participation and development, said: “Last winter we asked people from across grassroots football what they felt would make playing football better.
"Nearly 30,000 people gave us their view, yet among the vast majority the answer was remarkably similar: supporting clubs to improve their pitches.
"We have committed to investing a total of £260 million in addressing the problem of poor quality facilities and improving grassroots coaching by 2019.
"In addition to the PIP, we are now a heartbeat away from the start of our groundbreaking football hubs project with the pilot initiative set to go live in Sheffield this summer."
One of the great challenges that many clubs in grassroots football face is that 83% of pitches in England are publicly owned and, as austerity measures kick in, local authority budgets are increasingly being squeezed. Funds for pitch maintenance are often at risk as councils are forced to prioritise essential services.
The official roll out of the PIP follows extensive piloting which has already seen £1 million invested and over 800 visits to grassroots football pitches by trained experts.
Mark Pover, The FA’s national facilities manager, said: “PIP has already proven to be a tremendous resource for many grassroots clubs.
"In addition, through the introduction of new technologies, The FA is able to develop local investment strategies and continue talking directly with clubs about the state of the facilities they use, providing dedicated programmes to help with improvements.
“The development of playing pitch strategies also gives us an early warning of pitch conditions and pitches under threat of development, strengthening our hand when it comes to challenging pitch closures and maintenance programmes.”
To support the programme The FA has appointed two industry partners, Redexim Charterhouse and Rigby Taylor, who will assist in the roll out by supplying FA-affiliated grassroots clubs with discounted product and materials and also support the training workshops.