You may remember my blog from September asking people to take part in a consultation that the Government was holding on sport. Following that consultation the Government announced their Strategy for Sport.
This was definitely a step forward because somehow through the whole of the last Parliament they had no strategy at all. The document covers a wide range of topics and I won’t go into them all. Although, it is nice to see many policies that Labour suggested in the last Parliament are now being adopted by the Tories.
My focus is on the issue of funding for grassroots football. Sports Minister Tracey Crouch has said that a new agreement has been reached with the Premier League reflecting the new massive deal that they have signed for future TV broadcasting rights. She claims investment in grassroots football will double. The details haven’t yet been confirmed, but £100 million a year has been mentioned.
Of course I welcome any increase in funding by the Premier League, but it still sounds very disappointing. The Premier League have had a long standing voluntary arrangement to give 5% of their broadcasting rights to grassroots, they unfortunately haven’t always stuck to it but that is the benchmark. This announcement seems to fall sort of that right away.
The Premier League look set to bring in £8 billion from TV rights over three years. Some quick maths tells me that 5% would mean over £133 million each year. That’s a lot more than the vague £100 million figure the Minister keeps mentioning.
We need to see a guarantee that grassroots will get a minimum of 5%, plus assurance that this will be monitored as we know that in the past the Premier League has failed to meet this expectation.
I still believe that there is room to go further. In the past I have suggested 7.5% of the broadcasting rights, a small adjustment for the Premier League but a huge windfall for grassroots. I don’t ask for this for the sake of it, or to take shots at the Premier League, I ask for more because I believe that it is necessary.
81% of publicly accessible football pitches are owned by local councils or schools. Funding for local government was cut by 40% in the last Parliament and will fall again by 56% by 2019/20. Funding for sports will be devastated.
There will be demands for the Government to give more money to local government and I support that. However, I recognise that councillors have to prioritise social care, child protection, economic regeneration, poverty prevention and much more with every pound that is won in that fight.
But I will not allow sport to be sacrificed when there is an alternative available. If the Government won’t support sporting facilities themselves it is their duty to work with the FA, to work with the Premier League, to work with the thousands of volunteers up and down the country to make sure that grassroots football has a solid foundation. It must be accessible to every child who wants to take part and that means decent pitches with somewhere to get changed that are affordable to use.
Unless we ask the Premier League to go beyond 5% I do not see how grassroots sports can counteract this enormous hole in council funds. The danger is that football becomes the preserve of only those who can afford it.
The Government are finally heading in the right direction but it is no time for small steps. This new TV deal is an opportunity to do some good for the future of football and to improve the lives of children across the country. I’ll be asking the Minister to make the most of this chance, another one won’t come along soon.
On Thursday I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to speak at Culture Media and Sport Questions. I was keen to raise the matter of the Save Grass Roots Football campaign again, as this was my first chance to directly question the new Ministers appointed since the General Election.
I was pleased to hear a big change in language from the Minister compared to this time last year. It's been an uphill battle to have the Government even acknowledge that there were issues with the funding of children's football. I'll be pushing on this again in the near future if we don't see any sign of a clear commitment from the Premier League to do more, but the national debate seems to be shifting in our favour.
You can watch my exchange with the Minister here:
The Huffington Post article which is referred to during this can be found in full here - http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/david-crausby/football-belongs-to-us-no_b_8123544.html
This blog is aimed at the supporters of the Save Grassroots Football campaign. The campaign was launched in 2013 with the idea of encouraging the Government to secure a serious commitment from the Premier League to fund grassroots football.
You can find out more about the campaign here but I want to highlight an important way that you can help make the case for this change.
The Government have launched a public consultation to help develop their future strategies for sport. The document covers a wide range of topics, so whatever your interests are in the world of sport there’s plenty of ways to get involved and try to influence the Government’s plans. You don’t have to answer every question or respond to every point in the document, just the things that matter to you.
You can find all the information on the consultation here.
If you are a supporter of the Save Grassroots Football campaign and you want to help, please take a look at section 4 - Financial Sustainability. This is the part of the document which looks at the issues that we have been talking about and it is an ideal opportunity for members of the public to express their support.
I will be responding myself, but I want the Government to hear from the people involved with grassroots football and whose children or grandchildren have experiences of grassroots football. If football in your area has taken a step back in the last few years, explain how, if you see the need for investment explain why you think it is important.
I am sure that any examples from the world of grassroots football that show why a new settlement is needed will help make a difference. Let’s show what a difference this money would make to the next generation.
The consultation closes on 2nd October. Please share this information as much as you can and encourage people to take part.
- We want a firm commitment that the Premier League will give a share of TV broadcasting rights to grassroots football. A levy must be considered because the Premier League have shown they won’t do this voluntarily.
- This should include any International broadcasting deals.
- This is needed to give the sport the support it needs and a clear funding base
- If you have personal experiences, please share them
- You don’t have to answer every question in the consultation
- You can even send in a response via email to email@example.com
Today The Football Association have announced that they will invest a record £260m into the grassroots game over the next four years.
It is a £60m increase on the funding allotted for the previous four-year period, which ended this summer, so an extra £15m per year.
I welcome this increase and I hope that it will be well targeted to make sure as many children can access football as possible. However, this is just a small change and in isolation it is not going to address the huge problems facing grassroots football.
Local Councils continue to be drained of their resources, inevitably leading to reduced support for sports facilities and activities across the country. Teams and leagues are closing and some families are being priced out of the game. This is not sustainable without a major realignment to get the sport back on solid ground.
Today’s decision once again highlights the importance of the Save Grassroots Football campaign, which asks the Premier League to give more money back to the grassroots. I will continue to pressure the Government to take action and deliver a new settlement which will protect football for the next generation.
This Friday I’ll be speaking at a special event discussing the future of grassroots football.
As you may know I have been campaigning for the Premier League to put more money into grassroots football and it would be great to see some of my constituents come to join the debate at Accrington Stanley FC.
An £835 million was spent by Premier League football clubs during the last transfer window; £757 million was spent building Wembley Stadium; £105 million has been spent on St George’s Park training complex, football seems awash with money. Yet, amateur and grassroots football leagues up and down the country are dying because of rising costs and poor facilities, as more and more young people turn their backs away from playing our national game.
Join MPs, the Houses of Parliament Outreach Service and Grassroots campaigners at Accrington Stanley Football Club on Friday 21st November at 7pm as we debate, discuss and seek ways to increase dialogue amongst Parliamentarians, lobbyists, campaigners and football enthusiasts about the way grassroots football is organised, governed and financed in this country.
How can we improve the state of grassroots and amateur football for the long term benefit of football in this country? How can grassroots football be saved?
Speakers at the event will include:
• David Crausby MP for Bolton North East (originator of the e-petition ‘save grassroots football’)
• Graham Jones MP for Hyndburn and a member of the All Party Parliamentary Football Group
• Kevin Rye - Supporters Direct
• Kenny Saunders from the 'Save Grassroots Football Campaign'
Entry is free. Food will be served.
If you care at all about the future of grassroots football in the UK, come along and let your feelings, opinions and recommendations be known.
To reserve your place go to https://grassrootsfootball.eventbrite.co.uk
In 2013 it took 4 months to find 10,000 people who would sign my petition calling for the Premier League to put more money into grass roots football.
My new petition has today passed that mark, less than two months after it was launched. - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/66835
I’m very pleased to see the campaign continue to grow and become a part of the national conversation about football. Now that we’ve reached 10,000 the Government will have to respond and I will be looking at their response closely to see if there’s any movement in their position.
Of course we don’t stop there. If we reach 100,000 signatures then the issue will be considered for a full debate in the House of Commons chamber.
Please keep signing and sharing the petition, keep the conversation going. The more people that get involved the more pressure we can put on the politicians and those at the top of football to take real action to help save grass roots football for children across England.
Less than a week since I launched the new petition on talkSPORT and we’ve just passed 2000 signatures!
Thank you to everyone who’s signed the petition so far, please keep sharing it and talking about it, I really believe that we can reach 100,000 this time.
If you’ve not signed the petition yet just click here - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/66835
A little tip- your signature won’t be added unless you click to confirm once they send you an email, so don’t forget that.
Missed all the excitement last week and want to know more about the campaign to Save Grass Roots Football? Then click here for the full story. http://www.davidcrausby.co.uk/football
18 months ago I launched a petition calling for the Premier League to put more money into grassroots football which was supported by over 30,000 people.
Today on talkSPORT radio I launched a brand new petition with the aim of collecting over 100,000 signatures in the next 12 months. http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/66835
I think the time has come to really build meaningful support for this campaign. More and more people are recognising the problems facing our national sport and becoming open to new ideas to try and put things right.
Over the last two years I have heard stories from around the country about rising fees that are too high for ordinary families to pay, poor quality pitches that are closed half of the year, and children forced to change in the car are by the side of the pitch because there are no proper changing facilities.
Every child deserves the opportunity to take part in organised sport, and football is the most popular sport in the country, and yet we are seeing participation falling.
Most public pitches are owned by Local Authorities, but huge cuts passed down from the Government mean they have very difficult decisions to make and I don’t think it would be fair to ask them to put more into football in the face of big risks to vital frontline services.
It’s time for us to find a new funding settlement that will allow for meaningful investment into grass roots facilities and open football up to everyone who wants to take part.
Shortly before this campaign was formed the Premier League signed a deal for their broadcasting rights over three seasons that is worth £5bn. Clearly there is money in football, but it is being concentrated at the top. I don't want this cash boost to be wasted on even higher wages for managers and players, it's time for the Premier League to give more back to the grassroots.
I know it won’t be easy to get more money out of the Premier League, they are a business after all and have their own interests in mind, but I think with enough support we can do this.
Sign the petition and share it as widely as possible –
If we reach 100,000 signatures then this will be considered for a debate in the House of Commons. That would be a real sign to the decision makers in football that the public want change, that there is real grass roots support to save grass roots football. It will also help to raise awareness among MPs and Government Ministers so that they can add extra pressure.
Keep talking about the campaign and sharing your stories. Do you volunteer with your local team? Are you a parent whose kids love football? Your experience of the state of grass roots football in England today can really help to change minds. Please get in touch.
About the campaign
Children up and down the country benefit from being able to take part in organised football. It’s not just good exercise; it teaches them important life skills like team work and helps them to build friendships. I don't want children to miss out on the chance to take part.
The cuts imposed by the Government on Local Authorities across the country mean that football is feeling the effect. I've heard so many stories about ordinary families unable to pay rising subs, poor quality pitches and an absence of decent changing facilities.
I think that it would be unreasonable to demand that councils put more money into football at a time when such difficult decisions are being made, but I still think that it is important for our country so we must look for alternative revenue.
I hope you will consider signing this petition calling for the Premier League to give more back to grassroots football – https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/200094
How it all started
In 2013 I helped form Save Grassroots Football. Our aim was to have the Government negotiate with the Premier League to ensure a fair funding stream from the wealthy professional game to the grassroots.
It turned out that back in the 90s the Premier League had agreed that they would give 5% of the money they receive from TV broadcasting rights to grassroots football. However, at no point did they meet this agreement, and the ambition did not include money from international broadcasting rights.
It was time to set things right.
What has happened so far?
The campaign began with an ambitious goal: 7.5% of all Premier League broadcasting rights to go to the grassroots.
More than 30,000 people signed my petition and the publicity put this issue on the public agenda. There is clear public support for this campaign and discussions over how we fund grassroots sport have become mainstream.
I took our argument into the House of Commons, debating the Sports Minister in Westminster Hall
Labour was the first party to listen and made a manifesto commitment for the 2015 General Election to tax the Premier League’s TV rights at 5% and provide additional funds through a tax on sports betting.
Eventually the Government started to listen too. By October 2015 we were hearing positive words from the new Sports Minister.
As we moved into 2016 we saw new rights deals being signed. Sky and BT Sport paid a record £5.136bn for live Premier League TV rights for three seasons from 2016-17. More than £2bn is coming from international broadcasting rights.
The campaign took a huge step forward when the Government finally announced a new funding arrangement. Over £100m per year was pledged to grassroots football, in cash terms this would be double the previous year. It was a clear win for our three years of work.
Sadly though the deal did not meet our ambitions. International broadcasting rights were still excluded from the arrangement, leaving millions of pounds in the hands of the richest clubs in the country.
That’s where we are today. Big steps taken, more work to do.
Save Grassroots Football has launched a fresh petition to pressure the Government. You can add your name here https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/200094
You can also follow @savegrassroots on twitter for updates from the campaign lead by football activist Kenny Saunders.
I will continue to hold the Government to account on this matter. The promises made in 2016 cannot be allowed to be forgotten like the old commitments were, and we must keep revisiting this issue to deliver a fair deal that gives grassroots football a secure and stable funding stream.