Download presentations from Martin Glenn, Chairman, Football Foundation; Cllr Louise Gittins, Leader, Cheshire West & Cheshire Council; and Victoria French, Assistant Director Culture and Events at Sunderland City Council.
- Unlocking the Power of Football Investment part one: 1 (pdf, 3,257KB)
- Unlocking the Power of Football Investment part one: 2 (pdf, 15,186KB)
- Unlocking the Power of Football Investment part one: 3 (pdf, 15,073KB)
- Unlocking the Power of Football Investment part one: 4 (pdf, 14,518KB)
- Unlocking the Power of Football Investment part one: 5 (pdf, 11,916KB)
- Unlocking the Power of Football Investment part one: 6 (pdf, 12,497KB)
- Unlocking the Power of Football Investment part two (pdf, 3,391KB)
Martin Glenn, Chairman, Football Foundation
Football Foundation (pdf, 1,947KB)
Cllr Louise Gittins, Leader, Cheshire West & Cheshire Council
Sunderland Football Hubs (pdf, 4,010KB)
Victoria French, Assistant Director Culture and Events, Sunderland City Council (replacing Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council)
- Video transcript
GV Hello, and welcome. I’m Gerald Vernon-Jackson, I’m leader of Portsmouth City Council, and chair of the Culture, Tourism and Sport Board at the Local Government Association. So welcome to this. I’m delighted to welcome you here today for this joint webinar with the Football Foundation.
Football is regarded as our national sport, it’s a fantastic team activity that brings people from different backgrounds together to exercise, to socialise and interact and to keep fit. In the context of Covid, it can help build resilience to the virus and to other infections and illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
Whilst participation figures are amongst the highest for any sport, whether playing or a spectator, there are still areas where councils and football providers can work more closely to bridge the gaps that exist. For example, inequalities in coaching structures among people from different backgrounds, gender, disability and ethnicity remain a challenge for many sports, including football.
Within this football revolution, we would like to see the inequality gaps reducing and eventually removed. However, it’s our infrastructure that is crucial to ensuring future levels of participation and enjoyment, and success for our national teams for the future.
And this is where councils have a crucial role to play, in partnering with the Football Foundation and our local leagues. And I know when I have moans from my local teams, it’s almost always about pitches. In the current financial climate, it’s crucial that we see a more coordinated, localised approach to sports funding and provision.
I’m therefore delighted that we’re working with the Football Foundation through this webinar, to ensure that resources are maximised and a seamless football offer is presented to participants to take part at whatever level they choose.
The Football Foundation is the Premier League, the FA and the government’s charity. Over the past 20 years, it’s been working with communities to delivery sports projects worth over £1.5 billion. This reflects a long-term commitment to championing fair access to quality facilities for all players, regardless of their age, gender, background or ability.
Today, we’ll hear about plans to ensure every community gets the football facilities they deserve. These plans present a huge opportunity to transform local grassroots sports across England secure the benefits it’ll bring to our communities.
I’m sure you’ll find today useful in unlocking the funding you need to transform your local pitches and deliver the local football facilities plans. I’m particularly pleased because I’ve seen previous investment by the Football Foundation in Portsmouth, I’ve seen the huge effect that’s had.
And I’m really interested to hear from other people who’ve seen the next wave and seen the effects in their communities, as I hope Portsmouth will be getting some of these facilities in the near future. So it’s now my pleasure to pass onto Martin Glenn, chair of the Football Foundation. Martin, hello, and thank you for all your work.
MG Gerald, good morning. And if we can see your Portsmouth shirt, that’d be an added bonus to the day.
GV It’s always an added bonus to see a Pompey shirt.
MG Yes, you don’t see many of them, that’s for sure. Anyway, good morning, everyone. It’s a pleasure to be talking to you today. And I’m delighted we’ve got well over 200 people from local authorities, community sports organisations across the country, coming together today with a common purpose.
Each of us has got an important part to play in unlocking the power of football investment, to transform lives in our communities. And I’d like to start with some really good news. We’ve now completed our two-year quest to create local plans that are going to help every community across England get the football facilities they deserve over the coming years.
For the first time ever, we’ve got a road map to invest and build in what every community needs, through what we call our Local Football Facility Plans. And I’m going to talk a little bit more about how they’ve been created and what they mean for all of us this morning, but before that I’d just like to share a short film explaining the mission and the work of the Football Foundation.
VV From Hackney to Hartlepool, we’ve been transforming football facilities, so more people can play more football. Then, overnight, everything changed. The pitches went quiet and the players stayed home. But while the world stopped, we never stopped believing in the power of the pitch. Because this is about far more than just football. It’s about improving physical and mental health, about strengthening communities, and boosting the local economy. So let’s keep going. Let’s work together to transform grassroots football. Let’s create the pitches that change lives.
MG As the film showed, the Football Foundation, the Premier League, the FA and government have a long-term commitment to championing fair access to quality facilities for all players, regardless of age, gender, background or ability. About 1.8 million people normally participate in some form of football each week, and that’s supported by another 1.5 million volunteers.
We all know our national game’s played an important role in communities in offering great opportunities for everybody to get involved in physical activity, and therefore providing a wide range of positive outcomes, and the foundation, over the last 20 years, has been working with communities up and down England to deliver sports projects worth over £1.5 billion. Because we know good quality facilities enable and promote greater football participation.
Often the sites we invest in don’t just include football pitches. Many feature gyms or community spaces and other sports facilities, all of which bring people together to create new opportunity and build community cohesion. Well-managed facilities can become long-term revenue-generators, and represent a really good use of capital investment.
According to CEBR, for every £1 million of capital we invest in community facilities, £5.5 million of output is supported in the wider economy. That’s a great multiplier. So by creating better access to quality facilities, we’ll get more people playing our national game, and we know that playing football improves lives by promoting physical and mental health and empowering young people and strengthening communities.
And communities need this more than ever. Covid-19 is the biggest public health challenge we’ve faced in generations, and whilst grassroots football is again on a necessary pause, it will be back soon, and we’ll need football to help communities get back on their feet and to make them more resilient.
In 2017, whilst I was CEO of the FA, we created what’s called the National Football Facilities Strategy, to set a framework for long-term investment. We recognised this had to be underpinned by practical plans that reflected the diverse needs and differences of every local authority, which is why we then created Local Football Facilities Plans.
And we’ve been working over the past two years with FA, local authorities and communities to create plans for every area in England, and they’ve been produced in collaboration with local stakeholders who provided crucial knowledge about current football provision and the likely demand for future facility developments. Over 2,000 clubs have been consulted, more than 300 local authorities, and a range of other stakeholders, to identify an excellent and exciting pipeline of projects.
Each local plan is a short, well-defined document that captures current football facilities and identifies investment priorities where the needs are greatest. They will help us improve grass pitches, develop changing rooms, expand pavilions and create new 3G pitches, as well as introducing small-sided facilities.
And they strike a nice balance between enabling the traditional 11-a-side game, to keep that robust, whilst catering for the rising demand in different football formats amongst young people, disabled players and older generations.
We expect 90% of Football Foundation funding will support the delivery of projects in these plans, and to secure that funding each project will have to follow and application process to demonstrate it will deliver key participation outcomes, and it can become sustainable. And this, then, I backed by long-term match funding. We know it’s a formula that works.
And through the Football Foundation, the Premier League, the FA and government, there are committed funds to deliver this ambition. And what now we want to do is work with local authorities and community organisations, whose facilities have been identified as priority projects, to turn them into reality.
As a foundation, we understand the huge pressure local authorities are under right now in making difficult financial decisions, and how to meet short-term needs created by Covid as well as looking against your longer-term strategies. And we believe investing in local community facilities, football facilities, can help deliver valuable health, social and economic outcomes.
Many of you are looking to integrate physical activity into more proactive public health policies. Local health and well-being strategies across English consistently highlight physical inactivity as a major challenge, and there’s evidence to show that investing in local football facilities will increase participation, and that is an effective way to tackle this.
Football is one of the most effective forms of exercise. Recreational footballers are often fitter and healthier than participants in other sports, such as tennis and swimming. For older people, participation in walking football has been shown to increase bone strength and balance better than walking or even resistance training.
There are many popular versions of football especially modified for people with disabilities, to help them get involved in sport and to get more active. And by increasing self-esteem and providing a sense of achievement, football helps improve emotional and social well-being of people with mental health problems. Participation in football and other team sports has been proven to boost educational attainment by as much as 29% for young people with low numeracy and reading comprehension.
As well as funding from the Premier League and the FA, we provide access to central government money for community football facility investment. In addition to our collective funding, it’s estimated that the cost of building all the facilities needed by communities across England is going to require an addition £2 billion of investment. And to help unlock this investment, we need to work more closely with local authorities and partners to deliver it.
And we appreciate the funding structures for local authority investment can be complicated, with different departments looking to fund different outcomes, but I think combining budgets for health and well-being, youth provision, community cohesion and other funding streams can be a really effective way of securing the investment required to match fund community funding football facilities.
Wherever we invest [inaudible] funding from applicants, and I’m delighted to say you’ll soon be hearing from two of our local authority partners who’ve invested alongside the Football Foundation and delivered great outcomes.
Councillor Louise Gittins will talk about the difference that our partnership has made to the people of Chester and West Cheshire, and Councillor Graham Miller will be sharing his experience of working with us to create the largest local community football invest for the North East, which has been used to build a series of hubs across Sunderland.
Both will demonstrate how working in partnership with us to invest in local football facility can help transform the lives of local people by improving their physical and mental health, strengthening communities and empowering young generations.
And if you’ve got questions on the plans or how you can work with the Football Foundation more generally, our interim CEO, Robert Sullivan, will soon be joining the panel discussion and can take those questions and add huge value.
Let me close by saying that I passionately believe in the power of pitches, and I’m really excited by the opportunity of working with you to ensure that every community, every community, gets the football facilities that they deserve.
I really believe that investing in local facilities will deliver these valuable health, social and economic outcomes, and make our communities more robust, and make England a better place to live and grow up in. And growing football in your communities is going to be vital to help them get back on their feet after the ravages of Covid-19, and make them more resilient into the future.
We, at the Football Foundation, are here to help your exciting football plans, your exciting local facilities plans, become a reality. Let’s now start conversations and work together. Now, before I leave, I’d like to hand the last word to one of our ambassadors, and it’s somebody who knows a little bit more about football than I do.
GS I’m delighted to announce that the Football Foundation have finalised their Local Football Facility Plans. This is a culmination of a study on every area of the country, and seeing where the needs are the most for new football pitches, improved football pitches or improved football facilities across the board.
Of course, we know the impact on the local community of having those facilities. We know that the power of football to be able to bring communities together, to bring people from every background of every age, and impact positively on their mental and physical health, is so powerful in the community that they live.
The Football Foundation, in collaboration with the Premier League, the Football Association and the government are now in a position to be able to push these plans forward.
So that football family, coming together, particularly at a time when we’re having to deal with Covid and the restrictions and the problems that’s bring to our communities, and what we’ve now got to do is work together to provide those facilities for people which have never been more important. So I’m looking forward to playing my part in that, and I hope that you will do as well.
GV Martin, thanks very much indeed for that. Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, I’m sorry I should have said at the beginning that if you’ve got questions for the speaker, and we’ve got a really good panel later, can you put your questions in the Q&A bit, which you’ll find at the bottom of your screen?
You’ve also got the ability to up-vote questions you think are good, so that they can get closer to the top and have a better chance of being asked. And all the speaker presentations will be made available on the LGA website after this event.
So, Martin, thanks very much indeed for that. We can now go to Tim Hollingsworth, the chief executive of Sport England. Tim, welcome, it’s lovely to see you. And the floor is yours.
TH Come off mute. Good morning, everyone. Thank you, Gerald, very much for that, and struck, actually, that you know that you’re a famous person in the world, being the England manager, when the video doesn’t play but still everyone recognises who it is that’s speaking.
I’m absolutely delighted to be able to talk to you all today. I’m here with a couple of hats on. Primarily, as the chief executive of Sport England, but also very much as a trustee of the Football Foundation, part of Martin’s board. And while it is absolutely central government, the DCMS, who are the funding partner, and providing the resources for the Football Foundation, it’s through Sport England that the money flows.
And it’s very much, hopefully, our connection and our engagement, not least with so many of you on the call today, that can help make some of these amazing plans more of a reality. Because it is a great partnership, actually, and it’s one of the reasons why I was so keen to join you and follow on from Martin today.
I think generally we have, and are, building a relationship with many local authorities and with the LGA, and many of you, I hope, on this call will have experienced in recent years the intent that Sport England has to work in local places and understand the local challenges, and particularly engage with you as authorities.
But also recognising just how much you’re all doing, not only to ensure that the opportunity is there for every person to play football, but also that our great national game is driving, as Martin suggested, the health and well-being and recovery of communities across England.
And it’s a partnership, as I say, that’s becoming increasingly important to Sport England and to me. And I say that, it’s a moment of reflection for me, it’s actually my second anniversary of joining Sport England two years ago.
But first, I think I’d like to start with a universal truth. Because if you say it, it sounds obvious, but it’s worth saying anyway. Football is hugely important. It plays a very significant role in the lives of individuals, it helps to shape the identify and sense of belonging we feel for the places that we live, that we work and that we play.
I think this is true in what we might describe as peacetime, but certainly during the current period, during the Covid pandemic. I think the value of football, the unique value of football actually, has become more undeniable.
If you open any newspaper or listen to any radio broadcasts in recent weeks, then there is a real fervour for both the return of the professional game, and obviously we’ve had recent internationals as well, and indeed public concern, I think, which we share, for the fate of local clubs, the governance, children’s participation, access to local parks, leisure centres and other spaces where we can be active and play the game.
And I think for me the reality of the current time, we’ll all understand, is not great. Having managed to get some return to the community game after the first lockdown, the complete restriction now on outdoor team sports in this period is a bit of setback.
We’re doing everything we can do argue the case for a very swift return. I’m sure many of you will be too, within the context locally, but it must be set, of course, in the context of the wider response to the pandemic, and nothing at all is certain in that context.
So as will be the case, I’m sure, throughout the day, there are some negatives here to consider, but there are also opportunities, there are also positives. I’m delighted in the way that Martin was able to describe some of the work that’s carried on, even during the period of the last six, seven months.
I think we’ve also seen, very directly, some incredible examples of local communities mobilising to support their neighbourhoods through sport. We have a lot of evidence now, both anecdotal and from our survey, that when the first main lockdown was introduced, because physical activity and exercise was specified as one of the four reasons that people could leave their homes, although they couldn’t play the sport it really did engage local clubs.
Clubs reached out, provided support and information to their members to do just that, to remain physically active, and we’ve seen an increase too in the use of digital platforms and technology to stay connected, even to support, in many cases, qualification and development of officials and other elements of sports governance.
And indeed, I know of some sports where they’ve had online AGMs in the last few months that have attracted 100 times the number they’d get to a real event. There are some upsides to these endless Zoom calls.
So sport is a connected in a way that few other activities can, actually, and very striking that volunteers who would normally give their time running their sports, coaching, have actually turned it to serving their local communities, and were very prominent in providing food, in providing support, even a friendly face to people in their local areas. Football clubs were part of that, absolutely.
So today I know that everyone’s joined this virtual room because we want to try and harness that enthusiasm and that desire to be connected, to create together, I think, that dreaded phrase, a new normal. Because we share a belief, as Martin has already outlined, in the transformative power of sports generally, and football particularly, to bring people and places together with a common purpose.
I think this should be, today, our collective opportunity. There’s no doubt that community sports organisations, while they are, in some cases, finding life very difficult right now in the very short term, with the financial pressures that they face and the opportunities that they lack in terms of providing the sport that they love, they do have a significant role to play in rebuilding the health and prosperity of our nation.
Sport and physical activity is a high-performing and well-evidenced investment, and it’s essential to our recovery, I think, in every part of England and every bit of the country that you all are responsible for.
We have some interesting recent independent research. It was undertaken for us by Sheffield Hallam, the university, which estimates that for every pound invested, community sport and physical activity returns £3.91 of return of economic and social value.
And in real terms, the sorts of things we should and could be focusing on, the ability to get people moving, means results in 30 million fewer GP visits, prevents falls that lead to 21,000 fewer hip fractures, and reduces many other burdens on public services.
So there’s an argument for moving just beyond the sport. An active nation also reduces workplace absenteeism, it increases productivity, and indeed we believe it adds nearly £14 billion to the UK’s economy.
And those are important numbers, and they’re important to us and to government at this time, but I think the case for investment also matters just as much to individuals as it does to our GDP. Our Active Lives and Covid Tracker surveys have shown us that while there was a great enthusiasm initially for staying active, activity levels now are dropping, with 3 million fewer adults being active compared to this period last year.
Perhaps not surprising, but still a very significant fact that 3.4 million people are now classed as inactive, that is doing less than 30 minutes a week, and experiencing more anxiety and loneliness and worse health as a result.
And we know, and you will all know, that the pandemic is not equitable. It’s making it harder for some communities and some demographics to be active than others. Adults from less affluent backgrounds have had fewer opportunities, time and resource to be active. People with disabilities and long-term health conditions, 16 to 34-year-olds, and indeed older adults, and those from Asian and Black ethnic backgrounds in particular have also been affected negatively more than other groups.
And I think it’s frankly unacceptable that the people who can benefit most from the health and mental well-being benefits of activity are also currently the least likley to experience them. So in these circumstances, we share a responsibility, we have it at Sport England but I think we collectively share it, to help those individuals and communities to tackle this challenge.
So I am genuinely welcoming the fact that we can, Sport England and other partners like the Football Foundation, start to try to champion the role of sport and activity in everyone’s lives. And we’re getting close, now, to coming to publishing our new strategy, which will be due in the New Year. I know many of you will have had the opportunity to consider that. Final stage consultation is out at the moment.
As we get closer to that, it the clearer it becomes that we do need to be disproportionate in who we focus on and who we help. To us, it’s not just enough that we recover, we must reinvent how sports and activity, how football is delivered in our communities.
We’ve seen this already through some great place-based investments, in that everyone benefits from being active. Allowing everyone to benefit is how systems thinking, locally, is starting to be delivered. And my colleague, Chris Perks, who many of you will know, is on the panel coming up shortly, to talk more about that.
Because we do need to make sure that we’re not only providing the opportunity for people to enjoy their sport, but also feel the health improvement benefits that can flow from it.
So if you take nothing else away from me today at least, on the back of how Martin introduced the great work that the foundation has been doing, it should be that we can and should choose to help people to be active in ways that will create the kind of society that we want to live in. And football holds a particularly special place in that, in our national culture, and I think it has a significant role to play in capitalising this change.
I mentioned in another recent platform that it’s actually one of the six major ways that people are active in this country, and it’s the only sport which can be really categorised in that way, in a formal, traditional, organised way.
Alongside running, walking, swimming, cycling and gym and fitness, football is one of the six major ways that people in this country choose to be active. Last year, 1.9 million people played football regularly. The sport has the highest participation levels of any team sport, and in particular it has the highest level of activity and participation among adults from disadvantaged backgrounds.
So I’m delighted that Sport England is working closely with the foundation and the government and our other partners on the development of the Local Football Facilities Plans, and that Martin has been able to announce their completion today, and the voice of Southgate has come in behind that.
And as I’m really looking forward to here at the moment, there are some great examples from local facilities that have strengthened our communities, not least in Cheshire and in Sunderland, because ultimately community assets, like purpose-built facilities, like leisure centres, like schools and the parks, are a necessary precondition for proper community development.
Pitches are the places that people come to mix, to integrate, and sometimes even to share in each other’s challenges and each other’s victories. They facilitate local cooperation and partnership, and they can help bridge the gap between the have and the have-nots.
In some places, these needs will be met with smaller-scale investments that support the potential for more informal games, as Martin suggested. In others, Association Football-sized pitches will be needed to host larger-scale competitive leagues.
But it also shouldn’t necessarily be a choice between funding different kinds of sports or activities, because many of these new facilities of pitches could be mixed-use, allowing different sports to cohabit, share the resources and respond more appropriately to the needs and lives of their users.
Indeed, I would suggest that this kind of multi-sport approach, maximising investment and use is the future. So certainly at Sport England we hope that high-quality facilities can and will reach into the very heart of places and their communities, and start to re-stitch some of our fraying social fabric.
Even during these difficult times, my colleagues and I are ambitious about the role that sport and moving more and playing can play in the lives of our communities and in the fight against Covid.
As a trustee of the Football Foundation, I know we share this vision, and I’m proud to be working in close collaboration with you all, in your local places, to help unlock the potential of our national game. And I’m very confident that the Local Football Facility Plans announced today will help to provide a further blueprint for what we can achieve together and how we can further cement the role of football in the activity of the nation.
So thank you very much indeed for the opportunity to speak to you today. Thank you, Martin, for everything that you’re doing. And thank you, Gerald, indeed, for the leadership you’re showing among our partners and the local authorities. Thank you.
GV Thank you very much, Tim. That’s very kind. Colleagues, we now have two people coming to talk to us with case studies of what’s worked really well in their local areas. So I’m really pleased to be able to welcome Councillor Louise Gittins, the leader of Cheshire West and Chester, who’s going to talk to us about the work that’s happened there and the transformation it’s made in her community. Louise, welcome and thank you for being with us today.
LG Thank you very much, Gerald. Just one moment while I share the screen, and we shall get this going. There you go. So hello, everybody, I’m Louise Gittins. I’m leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, and I’m absolutely delighted to be here today, to talk about our journey with our Football Facilities Plan.
And I think this couldn’t come at a more important time, as we recover from Covid, and how we can use sport and physical activity to help us all as we move forward. We all know the impact that Covid has had, both on our physical and mental well-being of our communities, but it’s not just the actual process of playing football, it’s about people coming together, giving a sense of purpose and normality.
And it offers regular access to a support network which has never been more needed than it is now. It also promotes cohesion and integration, and it provides, particularly for young people, a range of skills that will be vital for success in later life. I’m really keen as well that we get more girls and women involved, and hopefully the story that I’ll tell you will show how this has happened in Cheshire West.
As leader of the council, when I was elected last year, I wanted to keep well-being in my portfolio, because for me it’s at the heart of everything that we’re doing. And certainly our vision in Cheshire West and Chester Council is about reducing health inequalities and improving the health and well-being of everybody within our borough.
But it’s not just about health and well-being. We’ve heard about the impact on the economy, and also it’s about climate emergency, and by encouraging more people to get active, there’ll be a greater focus, I hope, on active travel and living healthier lifestyles altogether.
So in terms of our approach and how we went about our Football Facilities Plan, we’ve been doing this now for about two years, and the biggest part of it is partnership working. This couldn’t work without partnerships.
And our particular partnerships are, obviously, Football Foundation but also Cheshire FA, Active Cheshire, Sport England, and, really importantly, our grassroots football teams right across the borough, and our local communities. But it’s also about council teams working together, so that we don’t just work in silos, we take a whole-council approach to this.
So far, we’ve invested about £2 million, and this has been match-funded by the Football Foundation, but we’ve also brought in external sources of funding, and local communities raising money as well. And I’ll talk about that in a bit.
And for me, it’s just been something that has been so exciting, as we move forward, so I want to just share with you some of our projects that we’ve been involved with. So this is the first one, and you can see on the goalposts there, all the metal flaking off, this is a football pitch in Ellesmere Port called Netherpool, and it was on our playing pitch strategy, our football pitches strategy for improvements.
So this shows you what was happening during it. It was levelled out, it was reseeded, there were new goals, we put in spectator fences and new changing facilities. And it cost about £140,000. And this is what it looks like now. And if you go back to that previous picture, this is such an improvement to the whole condition of the pitch.
The next one is Knights Grange in Winsford. And again, you see horrible old, rusty posts, worn-out area around the goalmouth, and here you can see the condition of the grass, which was like that all over. And again, this has been totally transformed.
Another one, this particular pitch was in one of our poorer areas of Ellesmere Port, real health inequalities in this area. And again, this was one of the pitches subject to flooding, and actually it wasn’t used because it was flooded and muddy for most of the year. So local residents just weren’t using it at all.
So we did a huge drainage scheme on this. You can see the work being undertaken there, and this is what it looks like afterwards. And already we’re starting to see, just for recreational use, people are starting to use it again, which is great news.
So they’re examples of some of the grass improvements, the low-level improvements if you like, and I want to just share a couple of other ones. So this is Helsby High School 3G pitch and changing facilities, and this is a great collaboration really driven forward by one of our grassroots team, which is Frodsham Junior Football Club.
And this is about £1.2 million of investment. And Frodsham Juniors themselves actually raised nearly £100,000 towards this. And interestingly, I was just tweeting that I was doing this today and they’ve sent me a tweet and a quote.
And what they’re saying is better facilities for grassroots clubs such as ours will boost participation, mental health and physical well-being. Having a home for our club will allow us to increase our offerings across the extended community. And I think this is a great example of where so many different partners have come together for a fantastic facility.
I also want to share another one. This is Winsford Academy. This was a different way, actually, of funding something. So the money for this came from a capital receipt, and it’s enabled us to have this fantastic 3G pitch facility. That opened about 18 months ago. So it’s not just about the money that we’re getting from Football Foundation, it’s looking at other sources of money to build on the work that you’ve done.
Currently, we’re working with Chester FC Community Trust for a brand new facility in Blacon, which will bring 3G, changing facilities, and that’s an investment of about £1.5 million. And we’re delighted that there will be Football Foundation money going into there. It is going to planning, so I don’t want to pre-empt the planning decision, next week I think, but we’re really excited about that.
So I suppose the big question is what does all this investment actually do? And we’re now, as I said before, in the second year of a three-year football investment programme, and it’s, I think, really important for us that we can see what impact this is making.
We currently have, in terms of purely football perspective, about 864 teams that train and play in the borough, and that’s in addition to 56 teams that play in the Cheshire Girls League at Moss Farm in Northwich. And in just two seasons, alongside this work that’s been ongoing, we’ve increased the amount of teams by over 100. And it’s continuing to grow.
So it’s having a massive impact in terms of participation. And what I’m really keen to see is how this impacts on people’s health and well-being. And I’m really keen that we work with one of our local universities to actually get some evidence around this, to see the impact it’s making.
So if you’re not yet involved, you’re watching this, get your playing pitch strategy sorted and work with the Football Foundation, because it is transforming our communities, and it’s a really exciting project, it’s something positive as we go forward out of Covid. And happy to answer any questions when we come to the end of that. Thank you, chair.
GV Thank you very, very much, Louise. And that was really interesting for those of us who are hoping to get this investment in the future. Our programme says we’ve now got Graham Miller, who’s the leader of Sunderland. Unfortunately, Graham can’t be with us, but Victoria French from Sunderland Council is here to, again, tell us her experience of how it works on the ground. So, Victoria, thank you very much for stepping in at such short notice, and we’d love to hear about what’s happening in Sunderland.
VF Thank you. Thank you for having me. I’ve just jumped off the sub bench for this. So just wanted to take you through our journey that we’ve had with key stakeholders, including Sport England and the Football Foundation. If you could move to the next slide, please?
So this image will be very familiar to people, and we’ve seen similar images in the presentation so far. Like many other local authorities, we’ve seen some significant budget reduction since 2010, and at that time we recognised that to continue to make the scale of cuts that were required, we needed to further modernise and transform the service in a way that would make them sustainable for the future.
Conversations with funding partners started over four years ago, and today we have three of the best, and I would probably say if not the best, football hubs within the country. If you could move to the next slide, please?
So the three hubs, one which you can see here, are all located in some of our most challenging areas. Next slide. The hubs have, or we have, ten full-size 3G pitches, one of which is rugby-compliant and one step-5 stadia pitch.
We’ve got three full-size grass pitches, a health and fitness facility, community spaces and cafés, spaces for education and training, and, very, very crucially, hundreds of car parking spaces. I cannot underestimate the need for these. Next slide, please.
So this slide here just details some of the numbers from the first year, and you can see from these the people who’ve accessed the facilities in what has been the most challenging opening year that we could have anticipated, the numbers have been significant.
And it just shows us that this was very much needed and it was definitely worth the investment that we had and the funding that we received, thankfully, from the stakeholders.
So we’re confident that when the facilities can reopen, we’ll see this momentum pick back up. We saw it very recently in the stop-start hat we’ve had to have in the last several months, but we’re confident that the numbers will pick back up and achieve the plans that we’d set out.
It was obviously hugely important for our city that even during the most challenging times financially that we look to invest in community football facilities, and I think across all of the people who we’ve worked with, we’d say that if we were starting our journey again, it would be more essential than before as part of our Covid-19 recovery plans.
So football plays a positive role in many people’s lives in Sunderland. It’s valued in its own right for the friendship, fun, challenge and enjoyment it brings. However, the benefits of sport and physical activity go far beyond the sporting arena. We believe that football also has the power to change communities.
We’re seeing it happen now. It helps places thrive, it brings people together and breaks down barriers and helps to build communities. And this has never been more important than it is today.
Furthermore, football can play a key part in helping us live longer, as has been previously said, and helping us live healthier and more active lives. All of these points are embedded in our approach in Sunderland, to being a dynamic, vibrant and healthy city, and our residents and visitors to Sunderland now have access to excellent quality local facilities that benefit a wide range of stakeholders, far beyond just the players. Next slide, please.
So a key priority for the city remains to increase participation in sport and physical activity, year on year. The Sport England Active Lives survey identifies that football is one of the highest-participation activities locally, and football provides opportunities to engage with residents of all ages, abilities and disabilities in playing, volunteering, coaching and spectating.
As we did in 2016, we still recognise that continuing to invest in football and football facilities can play a significant role in helping improve health and mental well-being for so many people, but we know it also has the potential to support the economy, and enable better outcomes for young people.
It’s never been more important for us in Sunderland to have well-managed facilities. The new model that we now have in place will allow for the revenues generated by the football hubs to help cross-subsidise improvements in the remaining grass pitches within the city.
Our strategic thinking recognises that we need to continue to find new solutions, test boundaries, co-produce and work collaboratively with stakeholders and funders, as we’re committed to further develop our local plan for football that is very much in line with local and national priorities.
The Football Foundation, Sport England, our local county FA are absolutely key to this, and although we’ve got these fantastic facilities, we’re not stopping here. This is just the start of what we hope is a fantastic journey to provide many more facilities for the communities.
So by adopting a joint approach with key stakeholders, I’m confident that we’ll continue to make this positive difference, and through the provision of these fantastic facilities and a clear pathway that we have in place, it will encourage and enable more people to become active and, in doing so, achieve wider social outcomes. Next slide, please.
So whilst impressive milestones have already been achieved, the exciting challenge lies ahead for all three hubs to deliver the opportunity for thousands of local sportsmen and women, young and not so young, to play on first-class facilities week in, week out, and provide a base to enjoy and excel. Thank you.
GV Victoria, thank you very much indeed. So, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got now a panel of people to ask questions. We’ve got both Victoria and Louise who we’ve heard from, but we’ve got four additional people who’ve joined the panel, and I’m going to introduce them now. And just so we know who they are, I’m going to ask each of the new panellists, who we haven’t seen before, just one question so that we can start things off.
So we’ve got Chris Perks, executive director of local delivery at Sport England, Robert Sullivan, interim CEO of Football Foundation, Jackie Thornton, head of development at Norwich City Football Club and Community Sports Trust, and Tarun Kapur, chair of the Football Foundation grants panel, Manchester United trustee and CEO of the Dean Trust group of educational academies. So can I start? Jackie, just so we get to know who you are, what’s your experience of partnering with local authorities been like in your area?
JT Good morning, everybody. Lovely to be on the call with you all today, and fantastic to see some of the amazing work that everybody is doing across the country. I have to say this is great to see that we have a road map. When we started our project some time ago, we didn’t have a road map, so working with local authorities was far more difficult than having this set-out plan that we’ve now got.
So our facility is a £6.3 million facility. We purchased a site which was owned by Norwich City Council and Norfolk County Council, and it was situated in a Broadland District Council area, so three different local authorities we had to work with.
Situated under an airport, so lots of challenges to overcome. My experience has been that it’s about relationships and people really understanding what your project can deliver. Everybody’s talked so far about the amazing work and the impact that you can have, about being multi-sports. What we were trying to get across to people is how many people we can engage with and how we could turn a derelict facility into an amazing facility.
GV Thanks very much, Jackie. We’ve just lost Tim Hollingsworth, but we’ve got other colleagues from Sport England who we’ll come to in a minute. Tarun, can I come to you next? For 20 years, you’ve been chairing the Football Foundation’s grants panel. Lots of people on this call will want to know what to do right to make sure that they get their bids accepted. What advice can you give local authority audiences for securing investment towards sports infrastructure in their area?
TK First of all, thank you for inviting me today. 20 has been a long time. We’ve moved from being an organisation who had some money without the real strategy to an organisation that has an absolutely clear strategy with the Local Football Plans, and with great officers in the field.
And my advice always is ask the questions, go on the website to find out the details, and then engage with one of the Football Foundation officers to look at the feasibility and to start to gather together a plan. Because every plan should be based on football development and sports plan, not initially on the finances. Because that’s what it’s all about.
And my day job is about that. I’m lucky. I’m on one side delivering grants and on the other side seeing young people and adults benefiting in every single way. And just very quickly, last week we were all so disappointed, a brand new facility near to us, we got the WhatsApp to say we can’t play, this bunch of over-50s were devastated, like the bunch of under-sixes. And it’s about making communication open. And very, very quickly, that’s what I would start with.
GV Thanks very much indeed. Robert next. Can you give us some insights into how the LFFPs were put together and why they’re so important?
RS Yes, Gerald. Morning, everybody. Yes, extremely important, as everybody’s said already in this call. They are the road map, they are the way in which we will identify the specific projects we’re going to invest in and deliver those brilliant community outcomes across all of your areas.
What we did was we gathered a bunch of facility investment experts, and they went into every single local authority in turn, and did a deep-dive into what the football-specific needs were, mapping the supply and demand of the game, the opportunities to grow across different sectors of the game, and then talk to the local stakeholders, the local authorities, the local football clubs and community groups, county FAs, to really get under the skin of what was possible.
And that’s where we came out with what I like to call sometimes the shopping list. And every local authority now has its shopping list priorities of what we think, and know, every time will transform grassroots football in their areas.
GV Robert, thanks very much indeed. Finally, introduce Chris, who’s leapt back just in the nick of time from Sport England. Chris, what are the opportunities to use investment in football facilities to support other sports and other forms of physical activity?
CP Thanks, Gerald, and morning, everybody. Of course although we’re majoring on football facilities here, the facilities that the foundation enable can benefit other sports and activities, and we’ve heard some examples of that and many of you will know that.
So I think we encourage colleagues to think more widely about other sports and activities. And to point to the collaboration that Louise described, in terms of a good, honest and joined-up conversation about how any facility, how any multi-sports facility, can speak to a number of activities and, crucially, become that viable part of a local community which is needed for sustainability.
GV Thanks very much, Chris. We’ve got some questions that have come in, so can I do the first one? It’s from Paul Miller. Are all local authorities requires to have Local Football Facilities Plans and at which tier, county or district, do these plans apply? I’m a councillor for East Devon and unaware of any strategy we have. East Devon has one large football facility in particular, currently partly derelict with the changes rooms unusable, which would benefit from funding to bring it back to life. Who would like to jump in first, colleagues?
RS Should I take that, Gerald?
RS So good news for Paul, the plan’s done at district level. So we have 318, I think, in total, and East Devon does have a Local Football Facility Plan which has been completed. On there, Paul, you’ll find we’ve identified potential for three artificial grass pitches to invest in, and improvement of 21 natural grass pitches, to… I think it’s around the combined cost of £5 million of investment we want to target into your area in the next few years.
So hopefully that’s good news. If I was you, I’d get your team to go away and make sure they’ve got their eyes and ears on that, and then to engage with the Football Foundation officers in the areas to start bringing that to life, and having the important conversations we need to do next.
GV Anybody else would like to jump in, or are we happy with Robert’s answer? No, everybody’s happy, great. Next one is from Caroline Roche. When can we start assessing the funding for the LFFPs, and what is the process? Also, if the investment wasn’t identified in the plan, can we still apply for funding? Who wants to leap in?
RS I suspect it may be me again.
RS Whilst the plans are very much the specific projects we have prioritised, I think we’re very flexible to the fact that if new projects come online which may not have been feasible at the time of writing the plans, we wouldn’t dismiss them if they’re clearly going to deliver great football outcomes for your community. So there is always going to be a level of flexibility about which projects come forward and the order in which they do so. So yes, we would be willing to do that.
In terms of funding, this is all about working together and having the conversations at that local level. So the Football Foundation has a significant level of national funding that comes from the government and football authorities, what we want to do now is work with each of you in turn, in your local areas, to identify the best projects which will deliver the best outcomes.
And when we do that, we will begin the conversation with you about how to match-fund those at a local level, that means we get the best results and we can share and spread the value of what we’re trying to bring across, nationwide.
GV Okay, Robert. Anybody like to add anything to that?
TK Yes, I would. When we’re looking at the submissions on the panel, we interrogate the submission in terms of the outcomes, and it’s not just the outcomes of football per se, it’s the regeneration of a community, it’s the disability football, the growth in different areas, and how we can be inclusive.
And sometimes the submissions are on the fringe of the football plans, but they’re so good that we will support them, because it is about what’s best for that community. And there has to be a plan which is great, and that’s the strategy, but it doesn’t preclude some of the fantastic pieces of work that come into us. So just to make people feel a little bit better about that, it isn’t a fix-up that only certain places can have funding. Everything is looked at on its own merits.
GV All right, thanks. I think the next one might be for Chris. It’s how can we demonstrate the impact of the £2 billion across the country?
CP Thanks, Gerald. I think clearly this works at a number of levels. Within the overall monitoring and evaluation approach, there’ll be individual project evaluation approaches. I think, as we’ve heard from the two case studies, there’s an assessment to be done about the value at a whole local authority level or at a community level, and then those things will add up into an overall evaluation of the impact across the whole piece.
But I would also say that it’s important that those are in a number of dimensions. Clearly, more participation is crucial and we need to understand that. Secondly, the wider outcomes being delivered are an important part of that framework.
And thirdly, and again the two presentations pointed to this, the wider value in this way of working, the more collaborative, the more joining up the dots of facilities and opportunities, the more deep collaboration with communities, there’s also value and learning in that. And I think as a system and a sector, we’re just starting to use that more and more in all of our work, of which we’ve heard two great examples today.
GV Anybody want to add? No? Okay. I’ve got a whole series of questions, so we’ll keep ploughing through and I hope that these help with people. The next one, I think it’s from Councillor Miller, are all councils required to have a Local Football Facility Plan, and in which tier do they apply? I think we’ve done that one, my apologies. I think we’ve done that one haven’t we, Robert?
GV Okay, sorry. Nick Olson. Are football clubs in Wales included in this or not? If not, can we lobby the Welsh Government to introduce it?
RS I’ll do that one. There are no Local Football Facility Plans for Wales. The Football Foundation’s main remit is for English football. However, we do work with some of our Premier League funding with club community organisations in Wales, the clubs that play in the English leagues, if that makes sense.
So we do projects with Cardiff in the community, I think the House of Sport was a project we did with them recently, and the other clubs, Swansea, etc. So I’m afraid we’re not responsible for Local Football Facility Plans in Wales, and whether you want to lobby the Welsh Government or not, by all means.
GV I don’t think we should probably stray into that any further, otherwise we may get into trouble about devolution. The next one is slightly more prosaic for us, from Alan Williams. To protect the investment and provide safe and sustainable grass spaces, we often need fencing which can be a difficult sell on public open spaces. Can the FA and the Football Foundation help promote this message? Chris, do you want to go first?
CP I think it’s probably maybe a Martin or a Rob one, I would have thought, Gerald.
GV Okay, fine.
RS I think for me it’s all part of the facility mix at any given location, which is identifying where, in your area, we need to invest in open park space and where we need to be building football-specific pitches, which have those levels of fencing and protection. I, personally, would be supportive of that, but I guess it’s in the balance of what every council must consider about balancing off its open space and its recreational space.
GV Louise, do you want to jump in?
LG Yes. I think it’s really important, that engagement with local communities right from the start. I think it’s important to do that, and we’ve obviously engaged with local football clubs, but it’s actually the neighbours and the people who might use it for dog-walking at other times, so it’s making the local people feel that it’s their facility as well as the football’s facility. And I think if you do that and they understand why that fencing’s there, I think that will make it easier. I can’t understate how important that local engagement is.
GV And Victoria?
VF I’d just absolutely echo that. The process that we went through that started a number of years ago for the development of our football hubs, engagement with the communities was an absolute priority for these exact reasons, whether it was… we have one of our hubs that we had to relocated a bridle path, and the bridal path would have now been right through the middle of one of the pitches, so we had to engage very early on.
But in doing that, it meant when we got to planning that there wasn’t any objection. So absolutely, engagement with communities and those near neighbours of any facility is critical. Thank you.
GV The next one is from Councillor Bellamy. If we’re looking at 3G as a virtuous investment to provide facilities, health returns and a financial return, what sort of annual revenue, in terms of financial returns, could we expect from a 3G pitch to support stretched council budgets?
RS Should I speak for the foundation side, and then maybe Victoria could speak for the hub experience in Sunderland? From our perspective, we would start with any 3G potential development with the usage plan and the potential outcomes we want to gain from that. That would have to reflect a level of pricing that was appropriate for football usage in that community. There’s no point building a site and then pricing people out who would be normally regularly participating at a certain pricing level.
From that, we would then look at the numbers and see whether it was sustainable. And there was a really important element that we need to remember here, which is we also require the operators or the owners of the new facility to be putting away funding for what we call the Sinking Fund, so the replacement of the artificial pitch carpet in eight to ten years of usage.
So in the round, once we’ve understood all of those numbers, you then have a returns level, and it’s up for a discussion with the Football Foundation team to work out is that sustainable, what kind of payback does that give to the council for their… if it’s a local authority investment, and is that something that we’re comfortable can move forward.
GV I think my experience in Portsmouth has been we’ve made mistakes over the years in terms of pitches. We’ve put in 3Gs, etc. We have one area of the city which is a very, very poor area where we built the pitch in a school but it wasn’t on the edge of the plot, so whenever anybody wants to use it, they have to fund the caretaker to be able to go and unlock it.
And it just means that the people who live in the tower blocks around it, who are a very, very poor community, can look down on it but they can’t afford to use it, and it’s used by middle-class people from outside their area, and it’s not part of their community. So we’re now making sure that they’ve built on the edge of plots on school sites, so that somebody just needs a key to open the gate to come in from the pavement, because that makes it much more available to other people. Sorry, Victoria?
VF Just quickly to build on what Robert was saying, I think it’s really difficult to say one pitch will equal X revenue, because it’s about that holistic approach. The work that we did was looking at the facility mix. So if you’re looking at more than one, it’s looking at how one might provide more revenue but another might not, for various reasons, but if you look at it in the whole…
That’s the modelling that we’ve done, but I think that it’s again very important, the starting point for us was looking at the price points that we currently had, because there was no… not just from grass pitches that the local authority maintain and have hire arrangements on, but also our other providers within the city.
Because fundamentally it is about increasing participation, so we don’t want to make it really difficult for anyone else to be able to provide a football offer. So it’s about making sure that we had a baseline that was affordable for all. Thank you.
GV This is a question from Paul Stacey to Sport England. We were due to consult on our playing pitch strategy, but the consultation process is not feasible during Covid. Is there any guidance on how to approach this? Chris?
CP Thanks, Gerald, and thanks, Paul. The first thing to say, Paul, is I’d be very happy to hook up outside of the meeting on this specifically. We’re aware of, obviously, the constraints at the moment.
We’re discussing it amongst our planning team, because obviously it’s coming up in a number of areas, and we have some quite innovative approaches, actually, from places who have continued to consult and engage different parts of their community about playing pitch provision, by using engagement that exists already, other things that are set up for other reasons for talking to communities, or for more sport locally, they’re using that in different ways.
I’d be happy to share what some of those ideas are, and maybe we could speak offline. And as I say, it’s something our planning team are actively considering at the moment, for all the reasons we can appreciate.
GV Anything to add from anybody? No? Okay. Next one is from Ned Kelsings. Can the Football Foundation and Sport England give any guidance on the level of funding that could be available for projects prior to them being accepted, or has this got to happen after planning has been granted on a scheme?
RS No, we provide a small amount of project development cost funding, circa up to £10,000 for a project, so we can help with that early-stage development, and where we view to bring it to the point where it can go through the submission process.
GV Anybody else? No? Okay, that’s very quick and to the point. I’ve now got another series. As a local authority asset manager, sorry, I’m going to have to slightly translate, how do we receive details of the funding that’s available for us at our local authorities and our tenant sports association to improve our pitches and other facilities? How do we apply, and is match-funding available? Robert, I think that might be you?
RS It is, indeed. So the starting point is your Local Football Facility Plan, which will be emailed to every local authority today, and is available on the Football Foundation website. Once you’ve been through that, and hopefully the projects now will be familiar to you, the next step is to engage with the Football Foundation’s delivery team for your area, and they will start the conversation about which of those projects can be prioritised and put in an order of investment.
And then, as those projects are developed through to application, the funding conversation will start and each one will be assessed at the appropriate level of match-funding that the local community and/or the local authority will need to provide. To give you a range, we normally expect between 30% to 40% local match-funding per project.
GV Anybody else? Tarun, you’re on mute.
TK Most standard saying, I do apologise profusely. We have a fine system. I now have to put a pound in a box here, so that’s going to charity. I’ll have to fess up to that later on.
GV As long as it goes into Pompey and the community, everybody will be happy.
TK What is was going to say is that in some of the areas where it’s quite difficult for some people to have the wherewithal to write a bid, we’re able to utilise consultants to help them to move the process from start to finish, because the bid will be so good but it’s just pulling it together.
So people shouldn’t worry too much. The foundation are really good at allocating people to support you to write the bid. You’re not on your own, even as a local authority. I think that’s an important point to make.
GV Thank you. I’ve got a very short question, which is from Kate. Where do I find the local plans for the district? I presume the answer is with the district council, or do they come to you, Robert, or to Tarun or whoever? Robert, do you want to let us know?
RS They’ve going to be emailed to each district council today. And forgive me, I don’t know the exact recipient councillor who will get them, but the good news is they’re on the Football Foundation website. So there’s an easy way of going and searching for your district, and all the information will be there.
GV The next one is an anonymous attendee, and he’s got some slight politics. I think I’m going to read it out because it’s not part… Anyway, as a large grassroots club with 115 teams, we have a very supportive Conservative Borough Council, and our requited investment is priorities in the LFFP.
However, our facilities are owned by the Conservative County Council, who are proposing to sell our home ground for housing or schools, with currently no proposal for an alternative venue. How do stakeholders, councils and governments engage better, closer and more consistently so that situations like this don’t happen and grassroots like ours can deliver the LFFP? Who would like to tread carefully around that one? Robert, are you volunteering?
RS If I may, can I avoid the politics and give an operational answer?
GV Completely. I think the only point of the politics is that both layers of the council are run by the same party and it’s not an inter-party fight.
RS I see. I was going to give a purely operational answer, which is… I think you said it was anonymous but if the individual wanted to leave his name, who he is, the Football Foundation team in his area will probably be able to help engage and work out the best way through that particular situation.
And I don’t know whether the council, the political people on the call, have a view on how to handle the difference between the two council views, but operationally I would suggest we might be able to help on the ground, because a grassroots club that runs 115 teams needs our support.
GV I think my reaction would be need to work closely with the county council, to see if you can persuade them to change their minds, or at least to offer an alternative site, so that a club with so many playing, so many kids playing, will be able to find a new home.
And remember that you’ve got the point of maximum leverage over the next six months because there are elections for county councils in May next year, and therefore they may be more willing to listen over this period than at other times.
Something from Dave Cove. If a scheme at the sports park is multi-sport and includes a 3G pitch, plus additional facilities for other sports, i.e. improving rugby and hockey facilities, how do we coordinate applications to the Football Foundation and Sport England? Does applying to the Football Foundation preclude applications to Sport England for the same site?
RS Chris, do you want to go first? Or I can take it?
GV Chris, yes. You’re on mute, Chris.
CP Yes, thanks, Gerald. I’ll give a non-technical answer, which is, this has obviously come up before fairly regularly, it’s through a good blend of local collaborative discussion and discussion between the foundation and ourselves and our operational teams who will have the local knowledge. I think that’s my quick answer.
RS Yes, we’ll work in partnership.
LG Yes, I was just going to say it’s about partnership working, and our playing pitch strategy includes hockey and rugby, so it’s about all working together. And actually, the more you do that, the better life is generally, I’ve found. So yes, partnership all the way.
JT Yes, I was just going to add our project is very much a multi-sports approach, and it was very important right from the start. The amount of investment and everything that we needed to get the project off the ground, it had to make sure that we enabled health and well-being.
We run mental health programmes, we work very closely with the Premier League fund to then get funding for projects, education programmes. They’re really, really important, and if you work together with your local community trust, funded through the Premier League, EFL, all those people, they can help bring those programmes to your site.
So if you haven’t reached out to your local community club, as well as your grassroots club, I would suggest that you go and talk to them and see what programmes they already have and are developing and they will be able to bring to your site as well, and that will bring significant investment and that sustainability to your project, as well as reaching a far wider group of people than just around football.
GV Tarun? And then Chris.
TK Yes, some of the best projects that we receive have a blend of partners. Sport England are one of those partners. And our discussions in panel are very much about is this a facility that’s going to be multi-sport, is it going to have the social outcomes, is it going to have the disability outcomes. It isn’t just about football. This is about regeneration, changing the social fabric of areas. And the more partners the better in our way of thinking, because everyone has an investment. I think that’s really important.
GV Chris, you wanted to come back?
CP Yes, thank you, Gerald. And Tim alluded to this, only yesterday I was in a virtual room with some of Robert’s colleagues, some of Martin’s colleagues, Premier League, EFT Trust, so actually the environment for collaboration, particularly around more of a place-based focus is never greater.
And I think that’s one of the flipsides of the Covid crisis in many ways, the way the system works together locally and nationally, I think probably for all the right and the wrong reasons it’s never been more conducive to that way of working and really starting off with local need, local communities, the outcomes we want, and building from that.
So I just wanted to point to the environment’s very supportive at the moment for ever greater collaboration. That’s not to say there won’t be some bumps on the road, but I think that’s worth saying.
GV Next one’s to Victoria. Victoria, you mentioned that car-parking was key to the facility’s success. Do you have any advice on any planning issues that came across to enable this to happen? Our local planning policy is to drive cars out of the city and reduce parking at every facility and promote more sustainable transport links.
VF Yes, and our planning policy’s exactly the same, but one of the key things that we did was bring planners into those conversations very, very early on. So with the support of the operations team at the Football Foundation, we did some modelling. In Sunderland, we have a huge youth league which has thousands of young people on a weekend playing, and this youth league was moving on to these hub sites, so we were very mindful that although we are pushing active travel, sustainable transport, car-sharing, all of those areas that everyone will be doing, we still needed to make sure that we could accommodate.
At an hour on a Saturday morning, we can have 700 players, parents in their cars. And what tends to happen with youth football is it’s one car, one player, one parent. So we had to make sure that we had sufficient to accommodate, and that didn’t cause problems to the neighbours within those vicinities. Because otherwise all that happens is those cars go and park in a local residential area, which just then causes us problems.
So absolutely, driving cars out of our city is equally a priority, but we had to be mindful of where these hubs were located and access to public transport, etc. But I would say bring your planners into the conversations early on, and they can help with some of the modelling as well.
GV Anybody else for that one? No, okay. Next one is from Richard Lloyd. Does the LFFP or any other scheme bring any legal requirement on local authorities to provide facilities? I’m in a situation as a town council leader trying to deliver desperately needed and entirely evidence-based new facilities, but a resistant local authority who prioritise neither sport nor sports facilities. This is making securing land extremely difficult. Who wants to go? Robert, you look as though you’re desperate to answer that one.
RS It doesn’t come with a legal obligation, no, is the short answer. The slightly longer answer is, and it’s back to a lot of what we’ve already said, the plan is a means for corralling and fostering partnership and engagement locally, and what we hope is with those plans and our ability to bring people around the projects, it will help you gather momentum and support for those projects.
And what it will do is obviously feed directly into playing pitch strategies which then obviously have a far higher level of traction in the legal sense around local authority decision-making.
GV Anybody else? No, okay. We’ve only got a few minutes left, but I’ll try to get through a couple more. This is from an anonymous attendee. Hello, great session, and good to hear about other sports and activities benefiting. I assume this includes recreational football at facilities too? I presume you have to have football to qualify for this, don’t you?
GV Yes, that was a quick answer. Next one, to secure potential Football Foundation funding, do you have to follow the Football Foundation’s procurement process? Also, can you package up a number of LFFP proposals… and it’s moved. Can I find that one again? No, that seems to have disappeared off the… Can you package several of them up together into one thing from several local authorities? Tarun, I think you’re probably the person to be able to instruct us on that.
TK Well, I can start that off. You would normally have a package of pitches or facilities from one local authority. They tend to work within the authority because that’s where the plan is. It’s quite unusual, and I don’t think I’ve come across it, where two local authorities would work together to create their own plan. So we tend to work within authorities, unless it’s a free-standing application. So I don’t know if Robert wants to come in, but that is [overtalking].
RS That’s right, Tarun. I think the answer to the question about packaging, the conversation we would love to have with all of you is how to approach these plans for your area in that combined, holistic sense. So yes, we can work down the list in whatever time, but what we’d really like to do is agree with you a sequencing and a way of funding them all together. That way, we can make big jumps rather than little jumps. So that’s absolutely in our ambition.
On the procurement framework, the answer to that is with 3G pitches, yes, you do need to use our procurement framework, because that’s why we have it, because we want to drive down costs and get the right level of quality on those facilities.
On other things that you may be seeking funding for, we’re more flexible to local providers, contractors and the good relationships you may have on other projects that you want to take advantage of.
LG I just wanted to come in, that’s a really interesting concept. I noticed in the chat before there was a question from someone from the Wirral, which is our neighbouring authority, and I know that there are pitches that are in our plan that teams from Wirral come and play on, so I think that fluidity…
Because residents don’t think, ooh, I’m going into another area now, can I play on that pitch. So I think there are really interesting conversations. And Robert, if you want to look at something, there might be something we could do with the Wirral, because they’re just at the start of their journey, and we’ve got lots of experience. So I think there’s potential there for something.
RS If local authorities can come together, pool their resources and their thinking, recognise the fact that football players do drive out of district boundaries occasionally, I think that would be fantastic, because it would just allow us to move quicker in delivering what we want.
JT I was just going to come in just in terms of the procurement with the framework. It’s very supportive, the staff at the foundation are really helpful in enabling you to get through that process, which is fantastic.
We did separate ours out as well. We have two contractors who are currently building on our site, so we had our contractor through the Football Foundation and then we had a local contractor, went through that tender process. So it can be done, and quite well, as long as there’s communication between the two teams to deliver your project on time, on budget.
GV Colleagues, we’ve got just a couple of minutes left, so I think I’m just going to wind up by saying thank you to all the panellists and everybody who’s made this possible. I think this is a great contribution that Football Foundation are making to grassroots sport across the country, and working with councils to deliver. It’s really, really important.
I know when I talk to my local football teams that the quality of pitches is a real problem for them, and having 3G, 4G pitches around and really good artificial pitches will be absolutely brilliant for them.
I also know when they have so many other bits that are useful, the informal players, youth groups using them, to be able to make sure there’s something constructive for young people to do. I know in my ward Football Foundation put some money in, and the youth projects, a couple of years ago, had 1,000 different-named kids turning up every month, and from not just my ward but from quite a wide area, and that’s made a huge difference.
Inevitably, I’m biased, I think Pompey in the Community are wonderful as a community organisation, and the way in which they are able to work with young people to get them back into education, to get them interested in reading.
And for kids, if they’re not going to school, instead of getting a text message from their head teacher, they’re getting a text message from one of the players at the club, one of their heroes, to tell them they need to be at school because they need to be doing the stuff to get their qualifications. So I think there are huge benefits for all of us from working together between health, councils and the Football Foundation and Sport England and our local clubs.
So thank you very much, everybody, for being involved today. Thank you very much indeed for the LGA for setting this up. I hope it’s been an interesting and constructive hour and a half. And goodbye.