Why the FA needs to invest in Grassroots Football

by Liam Turner

After winning nothing at international level for 45 years, surely now the FA is realising the problem is with the lack of talent being produced from a young age. The only way to do that is by investing heavily into grassroots football. There’s a huge expectation on England to perform at international tournaments, but how can they be expected to win anything when born out of a hugely underfunded youth development system?

Jose Luis Astiazaran, president of La Liga emphasised this point during the World Cup last year, stating that where 77.1% of La Liga players are Spanish, just 40% of all Premier League players are English. As Spain are the current World and European champions, it’s hard to argue that the lack of native players in our top division is a cause of the lack of trophies. Yes, we may argue that by forcing clubs to use more English players would be detrimental to the quality of the league, but with significant investment into grassroots football, the quality of English players coming through would be greatly improved. Yes it may never reach the heights of quality of the past 20 years, but it would inevitably improve the quality of the national team.

Investment should be going into coaching children properly from a young age as the major footballing nations do. We need to increase the number of FA qualified coaches and utilise them to their full potential by getting them into schools on a regular basis. We need to get more soccer schools around the country, offering quality coaching to kids of all ages. The amount of quality football facilities around the country, offering a space for kids to play anytime for free also needs to be dramatically increased.

Is this really going to happen though? There have been a huge array of new things that have taken precedence over youth development; from bidding to host world and European tournaments, to rebuilding Wembley (which in fairness needed doing). If the continues to put off seriously investing in youth development, that 40% figure will continue to diminish even further and the wait for an international trophy with England’s name on it will be continually extended. Now needs to be the time that we focus on the matter at hand and build for the future. If we  don’t, who knows what state English football will be in 20 years from now?

3 Responses

  1. Thomas Gaunt says:

    Fair points. However, I am not sure it comes down to grass roots as much as it is the number of foreigners in the premiership. The player pool to chose from in less and the number of players that come through is less because now even our academies are filled with foreign talent. Even from the age of 11 years old Premeirship clubs are looking abroad, so whay hope do the FA have. But if the prem does bring in restrictions it will help England but weaken the prem and thats where all the money is, so again the FA dont have a hope. Not very helpful if we are looking for solutions i’m afraid!

  2. Gary P. says:

    Article could have been written on USA Soccer and probably just about any country. Having so many foreign players in BPL more hurts National Team. But English players rarely play overseas. They prefer to play Division II or Championship than maybe first team in some other lower level league. All this said, if England won 2010 WC, this article would never have been written. Just a case of constant tinkering that goes in in football and just about everything else we humans do.

  3. Ebrahim Patel says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with the second to last paragraph.

    My personal view is that the whole British ‘up-and-at-em’ style of football needs to be overturned. I believe this involves changing a culture, which takes generations, not a few years. So whilst the Premier League may not have a big pool of English players to choose from, we must simply try harder at grass roots. Coaching should encourage pass and move, not simply to score goals – possibly a change of playing surfaces (e.g. to astro-turf) for the kids to encourage passing on the floor rather than avoiding the mud-filled grass by hoofing the ball as hard as they can. Of course, enjoyment and teamwork must be a priority too – see how the Spanish and Barca players not only play, but have a smile on their face when they do!

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