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FA makes £8m commitment to grassroots pitch improvements

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More than 2,000 grass pitches across the country will be improved as a result of an £8m (US$11.3m, €10.2m) fund set aside by the Football Association (FA).

The Pitch Improvement Programme (PIP) is a “central pillar” of the governing body’s 2015-19 Strategy for Participation and Development. PIP will provide support services to grassroots clubs, club volunteers and groundsmen, which includes on-site evaluations, practical advice and recommendations.

The fund was earmarked as a result of a survey undertaken in January, in which the FA asked its affiliated clubs to give an update on pitch provision.

Kelly Simmons, FA director of participation and development, said that 30,000 people offered their views, with the “vast majority” claiming that pitch improvements would enhance the enjoyment of playing football.

PIP’s rollout follows “extensive piloting” in which £1m (US$1.4m, €1.3m) has already been invested, with 800 visits to grassroots football pitches by trained experts. According to the FA, 83 per cent of grassroots football pitches are publicly-owned, and face budget freezes in the face of local authority austerity.

As part of the initiative, the FA has partnered with Redexim Charterhouse and Rigby Taylor to provide discounted product and materials, and also to support training workshops.

“We have committed to investing £260m (US$368.2m, €332.3m) in addressing the problem of poor facilities and improving grassroots coaching by 2019,” said Simmons. “In addition to PIP, we are now a heartbeat away from the start of our groundbreaking football hubs project with the pilot initiative set to go live in Sheffield in the summer.”

The FA Parklife Project will see grassroots facilities built around the country, with three initially being erected in the south Yorkshire city. The body has also announced that Liverpool will be the next destination for the hubs, with £17m (US$24.1m, €21.7m) going into the development of grassroots facilities to ease the reliance on local authority pitches for the 1,200 teams in the city.

Four football centres will be built in Fazakerley, Allerton, Otterspool and Woolton and run by the Football Trust. The facilities will have a combination of natural turf and artificial grass pitches.

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More than 2,000 grass pitches across the country will be improved as a result of an £8m (US$11.3m, €10.2m) fund set aside by the Football Association (FA).
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Kelly Simmons said that 30,000 people responded to the FA's pitch provision survey in January / Football Association
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