Government forced to reply as grassroots petition gathers real momentum

Saunders tweeted this picture from Liverpool showing the state of some grassroot football facilities which he says are simply not fit for purpose
Saunders tweeted this picture from Liverpool showing the state of some grassroot football facilities which he says are simply not fit for purpose

An e-petition championed by The Bucks Herald to call for more funding for grassroots football has gathered so much support the Government has been forced to respond.

The e-petition ‘Force the Premier League to back grassroots football’ recently reached 20,000 signatures.

The campaign was backed by The Herald and its readers as part of our Make Football More

Affordable Campaign.

We teamed up with former Liverpool footballer Kenny Saunders who is leading a one-man charge to force the government and football authorities to invest more of the billions swilling around at the top of the game to help at grassroots level.

The Herald started its campaign after Aylesbury footballer and coach

Stevan Wilson said he was witnessing a ‘rapid decline’ in the state of the game locally.

The campaign has since snowballed and in conjunction with Saunders’ Save Grassroots Football drive, has now received a response from the government.

The response, issued to anyone that has signed the online petition, said: “The Government works closely with the football authorities to ensure that the grassroots benefits from a proportion of the broadcast rights revenue generated by the Premier League and any commercial surplus made by the FA.

“The Premier League makes a significant voluntary contribution to grassroots football that has continued to grow since the League’s inception.

“Over the next three seasons the League will redistribute over £850 million pounds to help strengthen football below the top tier. This includes solidarity payments to support the 72 clubs in the Football League and the 68 clubs in the three divisions of the Football Conference.

“Part of this funding is ring-fenced to support these clubs’ work in the community. £168 million will be spent by the Premier League solely on grassroots football and community sport projects over the next three years.

“The Premier League has recently formed a strong partnership with Sport England to increase its work in this area. This includes the expansion of the Premier League 4 Sport programme that encourages more young people to take up sport and is helping deliver a tangible sporting legacy from London 2012.

“The £168 million is on top of direct investment from clubs themselves on community sport projects. The recently launched Premier League and the FA Facilities fund will build and upgrade community football facilities in some of the most deprived areas of the country over the next three years.

“This will build on the success of the Football Foundation - funded by the Premier League, the FA and Government - that has delivered £780 million worth of investment in grassroots facilities in the last ten years.

“On top of the Premier League investment, the FA returns any surplus from commercial rights into the game and invested £43 million into grassroots football in 2012.”

But Saunders says the government response is out of date and likened it to ‘putting a plaster over a massive wound’.

He said: “I won’t go away and together we can make them stay true to their promises.

“A game that should be free to play, our national game, is now awash with money at the top end and people are being denied the opportunity and facilities to play it and improve because it is so expensive at grassroots level.

“The latest Premier League deal is £5billion... that says it all. If we want to improve the national game, that starts at grassroots level. The next Steven Gerrard, Gareth Bale, Wayne Rooney are out there, but they’re sitting at home because they can’t afford it, or playing for an hour once a week on dodgy pitches.”

The petition remains open and will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee should it pass the 100,000 mark.”

Sign the e-petition