The Premier League is arguably the world’s most popular domestic football league and it attracts millions of viewers and supporters from all over the world every season. That popularity has led to substantial increases in football investment in the English game, and that in turn has benefitted clubs all over the country.
Many long-established professional clubs have been seeing the benefit of increased money in the game, either through direct sponsorship or television broadcast rights revenue, or through the investment brought by new club owners. Evangelos Marinakis who currently owns Nottingham Forest is an example of successful businessmen investing in English football.
But the danger is that the money stays at the top of the game and doesn’t filter down to the grassroots, where football has its foundation. Fortunately, there are a number of schemes created to channel investment into local football, and many of them have been helping footballers, coaches and clubs in Middlesex.
Grow the Game
Launched in 2010, Grow the Game is a programme delivered on behalf of the Football Association (FA) by the Football Foundation. Its aim is to encourage wider participation in football at a grassroots level by directing fresh investment to local clubs around the UK.
During the last cycle of Grow the Game investment, a total of £49,500 was made available to clubs in
Middlesex, which will be used to fund the creation of 33 new teams, including male and female teams and age-group teams raging from the Under 7s to Adult Veterans.
Each new team that an existing club creates will be eligible for a grant of £1,500 through the Grow the Game fund, and priority is given to teams for those who belong to demographics that have been historically underrepresented in football, including women, girls and the disabled. The money is a major boost for local clubs in Middlesex and will enable them to pay for essentials such as league affiliation costs, first aid kits, referees’ fees and equipment.
And Grow the Game grants won’t just provide a boost for local clubs in Middlesex. The scheme also provides funding for volunteer coaches to be trained in the relevant qualifications, and this year, 77 local football coaches will be able to develop their skills and earn coaching qualifications.
Retain the Game
The Football Foundation also runs the Retain the Game scheme. This is a new program, that has been established to enable existing adult male clubs to continue to offer people opportunities to play and train. Under the scheme, clubs in Middlesex are eligible to apply for grants of £750, which can be used to pay for a wide range of essentials, including the costs of training and playing. Under the Retain the Game scheme, 14 adult male sides in the county have received direct investment.
Support for facilities
Along with the Grow the Game and Retain the Game schemes, the Football Foundation is also responsible for delivering the FA Facilities Fund, which was set up in 2000. Since then, the Foundation has provided £1.5 billion in direct investment in community projects, and the effect in Middlesex has been substantial. The money awarded through this fund has helped to create 39 third-generation artificial grass pitches, 90 real grass pitches and 28 new changing pavilions for clubs in Middlesex and it will continue to be a vital source of funding for the local game.
Boost to women’s football
The FA has an important national strategy on football for women and girls that aims by the end of the current decade to double participation, and Middlesex football has been playing its part with the 100FC program. This is a coaching scheme that is designed to support female coaches across London, providing a funded coaching pathway with the aim of recruiting and developing 100 new female coaches, thereby addressing the shortage of female coaches in the region.
The Rectory Park Football Fund
The Rectory Park Fund is another example of investment in the local game. Launched in October 2018, it is a programme open to clubs in Middlesex that is designed to help the adult game at a local level become more sustainable. Last year it provided £13,000 worth of funding for 26 adult clubs in Middlesex, across nine different leagues, and a new round of funding will be available for the 2019-20 season, with the hope of enabling up to 700 players to stay in the game.
The popularity of English football has many benefits, but one of the most important is that it generates huge investment, which can then be directed to support the great work that local clubs do in sustaining and growing the game, in Middlesex and throughout the rest of the UK.