Date published: 17/05/2012
Gareth Southgate, Head of Elite Development at The FA, believes investment into the country’s grassroots football facilities is crucial to the technical development of the next crop of English talent.
Southgate was speaking as part of an online podcast with Football Foundation CEO Paul Thorogood. The show, hosted by Jonathan Joseph (more commonly known as DJ Spoony), discussed the results of the Foundation’s first ever Monitoring and Evaluation Report published earlier this year, and the impact that improving the country’s dilapidated facilities plays in the wider English football modal.
Southgate, said: “The reality is that with a grass pitch you can use it maybe only three or four times each week because most don’t have floodlights. When the Football Foundation put an artificial surface down you can get up to 60 teams using it. It makes an enormous difference for the amount of people who can play.
“Getting more kids playing the game will give us a bigger talent pool of players to pick from [at international level]. If they are playing on a good surface it encourages them to develop skill. We have historically not developed too many creative players who can dribble and can break teams down, so the more focus on skill the better, and if it’s on a better surface it is more likely to come off.”
Viewers were encouraged to send in their questions to the panel during the live show, with topics including: the role of volunteers in the grassroots game; The FA coaches licensing system; plus how clubs can increase participation at their club through the Foundation’s Grow the Game scheme.
Jonathan Joseph, said: “Listening to Gareth and Paul today about the great work going on at the grassroots game was a real eye-opener. I thought it was encouraging finding out about the progress over the last decade. But it did also highlight the big challenges ahead and the level of investment that's needed to match our rivals on the continent.
“As someone who has played football my whole life I've witnessed with my own eyes the bad state of football facilities in this country. It's good to know that work is underway to address the issue and resulting in new people taking up the national sport.
“Giving players top class facilities is not just about developing the next generation of English stars that could lift the World Cup - although it is a nice perk. But more importantly giving everyone, regardless of how good they are, the opportunity to play and reap the benefits of the game.”
Funded by the Premier League, The FA, and the Government (via Sport England), the Football Foundation is the country’s largest sports charity. Since it was launched in 2000, the Foundation has awarded around 8,000 grants worth more than £420m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of over £520m.
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