Thursday 22 March 2018

FA chief: Black hole threatens game

The FA has announced £260million in funding for grassroots football
The FA has announced £260million in funding for grassroots football

Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn admits young English players are falling into a "black hole" when they graduate from Premier League academies because of the number of foreigners in the top-flight.

On the day the FA announced a £260million investment in grassroots football, a frightening statistic emerged which highlighted how much work the organisation has to do to stop the dwindling number of home-grown players at the top of the English game.

Of the 220 players who started in the Premier League at the weekend, just 73 (33.2 per cent) were English.

"There is a black hole when players get through the academy system," Glenn said at the launch of th e National Game Strategy for Participation and Development on Wednesday.

"They go through the EPPP [Elite Player Performance Plan]. The issue there is how much playing time they get post-18.

"That is a problem for the FA and the clubs because they don't want to keep developing these talented players and not get them playing time."

Although the new £260million investment, which will be spread over four years, is a record sum it is a mere fraction of the £5.136billion fee the Premier League pocketed from its eye-watering TV deal.

Despite this, Glenn insists he has a good working relationship with his Premier League counterpart Richard Scudamore.

"I am a big believer in collaboration rather than antagonism," said Glenn who became FA chief executive four months ago.

"I've met Richard several times. I think we have more in common than in what divides us.

"The more England starts there were, the higher number you can pick from but we've still got a pretty big pool."

Glenn admits English players may end up being forced out of their own league to gain first-team football.

"There is a logjam but there are other ways of unblocking it," he said.

"Holland produces lots of talented kids who go across the world to play football. The same is true for other countries in continental Europe. We could do more of that."

Of the £65million that will be spent per year on grassroots football, £4.5million will go on prize funds and match distributions, £2.8million will be spent on technology and £1.5million will go towards club mentoring.

Another £10million will form part of the FA's contribution to 30 football hubs in inner-city areas.

The FA says cost-cutting initiatives, including redundancies, will help pay for the new investment.

"The FA has grown up doing a lot of things for a lot of people," Glenn added.

"What we want to do is focus more on football - there is an opportunity to put football projects first.

"We will go into a formal consultation with our colleagues in a week's time.

The FA is also hoping to raise money by re-negotiating the interest rate it is paying on the loan that it used to re-build Wembley.

Glenn said: "We are taking advantage of lower interest costs. We are in discussions right now with banks and with some of the government bodies that put money in originally to get a much lower interest burden for Wembley Stadium."

The FA hopes women of all ages will benefit from the increased investment at grassroots level.

The success of the England women's team, who made it to the semi-finals of the World Cup in Canada this summer, has left counties "inundated" with requests from women who want to take up the sport, according to former England international Kelly Simmons.

But the fact that there will be no British football team at the Rio Olympics because of wrangle with the other Home Nations, is a big source of disappointment.

"It is a big blow," said Simmons, who is now the FA's Director for Participation and Development.

Simmons would also like to see Manchester United join their Premier League rivals in entering a team into the Women's Super League (WSL).

"We would like, as a passionate football supporter of women's football, every Premier League and Football League club to have a thriving women and girls section," Simmons said when asked about the lack of a United team in the WSL.

"I have spoken to them a year or so ago and they said they were reconsidering but I guess it's up to them to see whether they want to take that forward or not."

Press Association

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