England is the birthplace of the beautiful game. Football is the single greatest export that the world has ever seen, and countries such as Brazil, Italy, and Germany (the list goes on) have only improved the game from there. Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pele, Diego Maradona – as great as they all are, would be nothing if it wasn’t for a meeting at the University of Cambridge in 1848.
So, why is it that in England, of all places, there is a distinct lack of football pitches at the grassroots level? According to the Football Association (FA),, resulting in fixtures’ postponement – particularly in the winter months.
The Need for All-Weather Pitches
There wouldn’t be a professional game without an amateur competition, so it is a crying shame that the amateur game all but comes to a standstill in the winter. Waterlogged and frozen pitches cause postponements and fixture congestion while the professionals can kick off as normal.
It is the junior game that suffers most, with most teams reliant on the state of public pitches to be usable – unfortunately, this isn’t the case. General angles not looked after often do not provide adequate playing surfaces in the summer months, never mind winter.
There is a call for more all-weather pitches to be made available at the grassroots level to combat this. Currently, 17 of 50 county FAs have their 3G pitch – an abysmal 33 without.
Funding to Save Our Game
Now, more than ever, non-league clubs are under immense financial pressure to field a team every week. As per the FA’s recent report, last season (2017/18) saw 150,000 postponements due to poor facilities – the equivalent of 5 million playing opportunities being lost. Every delay has a knock-on effect, which could be any of the following:
- Loss of ticket sales
- Cost of rearranging a game
- Potential cancellation-related fines
- Fixture congestion
With the proposed entertaining the idea of selling Wembley Stadium.to Fulham and Jackson Jaguar’s owner Shahid Khan, the FA has signaled that grassroots football would see major funding. The critics are out on whether the governing body will use the money from any sale of the national stadium to fund grassroots football and whether the FA should be
Suppose the stadium is sold to Khan; that gives the FA enough money to clear their debt from Wembley’s construction and fund grassroots football. That could mean clubs having access to an all-weather pitch, such as those supplied by , new groundskeepers equipment, or extra training for coaches to help develop the players of tomorrow.
Summer – The Time When Pitches are Closed
The new season is fast on the horizon, and now is the time that coaches of all levels are looking to arrange friendly games to prepare their players. However, a distinct problem at the grassroots level sees the otherwise unplayable pitches in the winter closed during the summer.
That means that coaches are forced to ask prospective opponents to host games speculatively, only to be rebuffed for the same reason. Pitches need time to recover; any groundsman will agree, but why is there a lack of artificial pitches that can be used as an alternative?
In England, there is less than half the amount of 3G pitches in Germany. Something needs to be done, and the sooner, the better, for the sake of England’s national sport.