Mayor invests in artificial pitches to boost grassroots sport in city

11 March 2016

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has today announced a £1.5 million investment in artificial grass pitches to boost grassroots sports across London.

The funding will kick-start the first phase of a ground-breaking programme in London and ensure the capital is at the forefront of The Football Association’s five-year plan to improve grassroots facilities in England and reduce reliance on local authority subsidies.

The FA will be working with London boroughs about becoming the first in the capital to create their own hub facility to create and manage sports pitches in local communities. The idea is for a trust - consisting of representatives from the local borough, County FA and the Greater London Authority - to run the sports hubs, which would be self-sufficient with their own facilities and could host a mixture of school and community sessions during the day, youth coaching in the evening and weekends and recreational “pay as you play” sessions in the evening.

The hub trusts will then manage the ongoing development of new and existing all-weather 3G pitches for a wider community use across a number of sports.

A London-wide process is due to be launched later in the spring for boroughs to bid for investment to kick-off their hub and football pitch improvement programme.

The Mayor’s investment follows a commitment to deliver a grassroots legacy for Londoners when the capital hosts the semi-final and final of the 2020 UEFA European Football Championships. It is part of the Mayor’s £25m grassroots Sports Legacy Programme, which has invested in more than 100 sports facilities, delivered sports participation projects to in excess of 400,000 Londoners and trained 13,000 people as sports coaches, officials and volunteers in the capital since 2009.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP, said: “There is no doubt we need more good quality sports pitches in London that can be used all year round and that is why I am investing to ensure the capital is at the front of the queue and reaps maximum benefit from the FA’s programme.

“It makes absolute sense that the good folk who run local clubs and groups across the capital have the opportunity to have a greater say in the running of their own sports facilities and take the pressure off council budgets.” 

The Mayor’s Sports Commissioner, Kate Hoey MP, said: “This is a great opportunity for London to secure the very best quality sports facilities for future generations to enjoy. I’m delighted the FA is prioritising London so early in their national programme and hope that we’re able to bring these multi-sports hubs to communities in every corner of our city. This investment will help build much needed new artificial grass pitches as well as helping to safeguard existing grass playing areas.”

The national hub facilities programme is being funded by the FA, Sport England and the Premier League, which will be delivered by the Football Foundation. As part of the programme, those funding partners will put up to 60 per cent of investment into hub sites in the capital, with the other 40 per cent coming from partners and other funding streams. The hub programme is one of the findings of the FA Chairman’s Independent Commission which revealed there was a dearth of artificial pitches – particularly in London – and there is a desperate need to reduce the reliance on local authority subsidies.

FA Chief Executive Martin Glenn said: “We are delighted that the Mayor is confirming his support for our football hubs programme in London. I commend London’s commitment to a project that will lead to a step-change in the provision of grassroots football in England. Over the next four years, we have laid out the ambitious target of creating football hubs across up to 30 cities to support the delivery of FA and County FA youth development and coach education programmes and to improve the quality of grassroots provision for clubs and teams.”

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Notes to editors

  • The London Pitch Sports Group, which is chaired by Sport England and includes representing most pitch-based national governing bodies of sport, will play a consultation role for the programme.
  • Current evidence from Sport England suggests that Greater London has a significant shortage of artificial pitches, with approximately 40 per cent of the national unmet demand being in the capital.
  • The Mayor’s investment forms part of his Sports Legacy Programme which is investing £25m into grassroots sport in London and has, so far, leveraged more than £30m of match funding; a total £55m funding programme. More than 400,000 Londoners have participated in projects funded by the programme to date and over 13,000 coaches have been trained.
  • The MSLP has a specific focus on addressing the issue of inactivity and increasing opportunities for disabled Londoners to participate in sport.
  • The Mayor of London’s Sports Facilities Fund saw the Football Foundation develop 104 sites across the capital, with every single London Borough benefiting from GLA investment.  These facilities are catering for 29 different sports and 15% of participants were previously ‘inactive’, demonstrating how properly-targeted and delivered facilities investment can help achieve a more active population. 
  • Since 2000, the Football Foundation has delivered £1.3bn of grassroots sports investment on behalf of its core funders: the Premier League, The FA and the Government/Sport England.