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Football Foundation
Grassroots hub programme has lift off

Grassroots hub programme has lift off

Date published: 26/10/2016
Grassroots hub programme has lift off

Sheffield, England  26th October, 2016Sports Minister Tracey Crouch and Sport England Chairman, Nick Bitel have joined FA Chief Executive Martin Glenn and Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Denise Foxto officially open the country’s first Parklife grassroots football hub at Graves in Sheffield.

The Parklife Football Hubs Programme is part of The FA’s bold plan to address poor facilities in grassroots football and an example of the governing body’s commitment to football for all - through investment in pitches, facilities and participation programmes. The Football Foundation, the nation’s largest sports charity, will manage the delivery and long-term performance of each of the facilities

Glenn also used the opportunity to announce plans for national expansion of Parklife - which will see multi-pitch football hubs built across England’s urban heartland over the next five years. Nationwide, The FA, alongside the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), the Premier League and local partners are set to invest £200 million in the project. 

Today marks the start of a three-month bidding process for local authorities to submit expressions of interest to be part of the programme. Planning applications have already been approved  for Parklife hubs in Liverpool and west London.

In Sheffield, the city council made significant financial contribution to the construction of three sites. In addition to Graves, in the south of the city, a further site has opened in Thorncliffe to the north with Westfield in South East Sheffield due to start construction next month, subject to final approvals.

Glenn said: “The FA is committed to football for all - through significant investment in pitches, facilities and participation programmes. The Parklife Football Hubs Programme exemplifies this.

“We have a marvellous facility here - and it is the start of something very special. As Parklife expands nationally it will mark the end of a story all-too-familiar to the grassroots footballer of poor pitches, woefully inadequate changing facilities and a battle against the elements to get fixtures completed each winter.”

The first two hubs at Graves and Thorncliffe will host league matches for up to five resident clubs played on state-of-the-art 3G artificial grass pitches (AGPs) – which will help combat the inevitable disruption caused by frozen and waterlogged surfaces during the harsh winter months. 

Typically a well-maintained natural turf pitch can offer 6-8 playing hours of football a week, however AGPs can easily accommodate double that volume on a daily basis – massively increasing the number of playing opportunities and offering football at flexible times in-keeping with the demands of the modern footballer.

The centres are fully accessible, present opportunities to play flexible forms of the game and are available for use by other sports. They are run and maintained using a self-sustaining model through the establishment of a newly formed Sheffield Football Trust. Leisure facilities operator Pulse will be responsible for day-to-day operation of the facilities having won the contract through competitive tender.

The Parklife model supports The FA’s priority of giving every child that wants to play football access to a qualified coach and supports the recruitment and development of referees and volunteers to ensure a high quality playing experience.

Councillor Mary Lea, Sheffield City Council cabinet member for Culture, Sport and Leisure said: “This is a very exciting time for football in Sheffield and we are proud to be leading the way on this national scheme with The FA. With hubs opening across the city we now have top class facilities at grassroots level and this will make a huge difference in our local communities, allowing all those who want to play with the opportunities to do so. In terms of sports participation, community activity and the associated health benefits, it's a win for Sheffield.”

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch said:  "Better football facilities are crucial to help strengthen the sport at the grassroots and that is exactly why the government is backing this project with funding. This state-of-the-art facility will be a big boost to community football in Sheffield, with the all-weather pitches perfect for year-round use as well as for developing talent and coaching young people in the city. I want to get more people involved in sport for the positive impact it has on people's lives and partnerships such as this one, bringing together The FA, local authority and government, can help achieve that."

Chair of Sport England, Nick Bitel said: “Sheffield marks an important milestone in our drive to improve the quality of community sport facilities across the country. We look forward to working with other local authorities who share our goal of creating top class facilities which can be used and enjoyed by the whole community, all year round. 

“Having access to a quality pitch, clean and warm showers, and welcoming facilities can make a huge difference to someone who wants to use them regularly. But this is only half the story. It’s crucial that once the new hubs are up and running, they welcome people who might not think that sport is for them.  We want everyone in England, regardless of age, gender or level of ability, to feel able to engage in sport and physical activity."

For more information about the Parklife Football Hub Programme, please contact Tony Snow via Anthony.Snow@TheFA.com and 07811 824646.


About football hubs

Parklife is an example of The FA’s commitment to football for all - through significant investment in pitches, facilities and participation programmes. It is committed to giving every child that wants to play access to a qualified coach and supports the recruitment and development of referees and volunteers to ensure a high quality playing experience.

Former FA Chairman Greg Dyke set out a clear objective through the England Commission he chaired to tackle the lack of fit-for-purpose football pitches in England by delivering the football hubs infrastructure project which will herald a radical new approach to football facilities management.

The Sheffield pilots have been funded to the tune of £7.1 million by The FA, The Government and Sheffield City Council.

The centres will be under the stewardship of the Sheffield Football Trust – made up of a consortium of key stakeholders – including the two professional clubs in the city, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United,  The Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA, Sheffield City Council, The FA and representatives from the local football community.

About the National expansion of the Parklife Football Hubs Programme

Starting today, local authorities are being invited to submit expressions of interest to be part of the programme. Towns and cities that have a minimum population of 200,000 people are eligible to apply. The process will run until the end of January.

Liverpool is set to be the next city to embrace Parklife, with three of four sites identified now having received planning permission.

The FA is working with sevenLondon boroughs to model demand following an earlier invitation of expressions of interest phase in the capital. A further announcement on which borough will be carrying this forward will be made in 2017.

About The FA’s wider strategic vision for grassroots football

Investment in facilities forms a central part of The FA’s new strategy for Participation and Development. The four areas where the new strategy will impact are:

  • Boosting Participation: Building on the increases in boys and girls participation and growth in disability football, while delivering more varied formats of the game to address the drop in traditional 11v11 weekend football among adult males.
  • Developing better players: £4 million per year is being invested in grassroots coaching. There will be a network of County Coaches – tasked with improving and supporting coaching across grassroots football with club mentoring programmes. The extension of coach bursaries will get more women and people from diverse backgrounds into the profession and there will be a drive to get more top level grassroots coaches into the game.
  • Better training and facilities: In addition to the football hubs project, The FA is committing £48 million to improving facilities directly through its funding of the Football Foundation which includes investment in 100 new turf pitches and improvements to a further 2,000 as part of The FA’s Pitch Improvement Plan. Since 2000, The FA along with its funding partners the Premier League and Government have created more than 14,000 grants worth more than £560m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of over £740m – over £1.3bn of investment into the grassroots game.
  • Football workforce:  Football will become more representative of the communities it serves through inclusion initiatives. The FA is also rolling out technology to run the game more efficiently and create direct lines of communication with players across all grassroots leagues making football truly integrated.

About The FA

The FA is the not-for-profit, governing body of football in England which re-invests £130 million back into the game each year. It grows participation, promotes diversity and regulates the sport for everyone to enjoy. Over eleven million players of all ages and 425,000 coaches help The FA keep the grassroots game going.

The FA runs 24 England teams, across men’s, women’s, youth and disability football, utilising the world-class facilities of Wembley Stadium and St. George’s Park. Football is the nation’s favourite game. The FA aims to grow it further in 2016. To find out more visit TheFA.com and follow @FA.


“The FA is committed to football for all - through significant investment in pitches, facilities and participation programmes. The Parklife Football Hubs Programme exemplifies this. 
Martin Glenn, FA CEO.