The latest results of the English Football Association's National Game Strategy indicate that the grassroots game is in a very healthy condition.
The FA started the scheme in March 2008, with a mandate to invest more than €230m into the grassroots over a four-year period. They targeted four main goals – to grow and retain participation, to raise standards and address abusive behaviour, to develop better players, and to run the game effectively.
The results from the second full season of the strategy show that all targets were met – with 1,745 new youth teams created, along with over 4,000 mini-soccer teams and 454 disability teams. A total of 1 million five to eleven-year-olds were trained in the FA's Tesco skills programme over the season, while more than 35,000 coaches passed the level one certificate in coaching football.
"We are delighted by the continued progress we are making," said Kelly Simmons, the FA's head of national game. "I am particularly pleased that we have managed to stop the decline in men's eleven-a-side – the game at the heart of grassroots football."
There was further positive news with 2,332 new referees recruited and trained in the last year, while 40% of the grassroots community said their football experience had improved thanks to the FA's respect programme.
"There is still much to do over the next two seasons but we are making a genuine, positive and sustained difference to the game we all love," said Simmons. The FA is one of seven UEFA member associations to have obtained the maximum six stars in the UEFA Grassroots Charter.
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