Last week, I spent Friday morning with talented, energetic, pupils at Church Drive School joining one of their FA Skills sessions. These classes offer the opportunity for boys and girls to have football training sessions, taught by an FA qualified instructor. It was encouraging to see the girls being taught alongside the boys, as I can remember being prevented from playing football when I was small.
The women’s game in England is growing stronger yearly, and to encourage from an early age is the best way to keep that momentum going. Some of the pupils were clearly skilled, as I discovered at my own cost on a few occasions!
In the afternoon I chaired a meeting at Tranmere Rovers to discuss Grassroots football with the FA, professional teams, secretaries from local leagues, representatives from the council, MPs and other interested parties. This came about because I challenged Greg Dyke's comments that the focus should not be the elite end of the game, but on the grassroots game. Local leagues and teams should be encouraged to foster the young talent that they have, and should be able to express that with well maintained facilities.
But the level of financial cuts imposed by the Government is driving the costs of playing up, and forcing clubs and pitches to close. An example of the increases in rental costs for a pitch for a season provided at the meeting quoted a 300% price rise. And when people are having to work harder for their wages, people are running out of time, and money to take time out to volunteer another 20 hours a week to run their local under 11’s team.
Football can be an incredibly tribal issue, but facing challenges to the national game like this, it is vital we work together off the pitch. Getting opportunities to play is not just for those who want to be the next England men's or women's captain. It's for everyone who wants to keep fit and have a good time with friends. Get in touch and let me know what you think.
Alison McGovern, January 22 2014