While football bosses have announced a record £5.14billion deal to televise live Premier League matches, funding to the grassroots game is actually being cut. The Premier League originally promised to give five per cent of its broadcasting income to grassroots projects. This has now fallen to below one per cent, with the league, the Government and the FA each cutting its contributions through the Football Foundation from £20million a year to £12million.
Worse, amateur teams face a massive rise in fees charged by councils for the use of pitches – in some cases up from £150 to £600 a season. In most cases, the management of publicly owned pitches is controlled by town halls, which have had to slash leisure budgets in the face of Government austerity measures.
Stephen O’Reilly, secretary of Liverpool junior summer league, believes the big clubs should do more. He said: “Bill Shankley used to come out of Anfield and watch the kids playing football here. Those days are gone. The Premier League should be looking after these leagues, where your Gerrards and Rooneys all started.” Stephen added: “All our equipment is kept in the storage container. There are dogs running across the pitches. There are no toilet facilities, no hot water. Football is a religion here. But now it’s all about money, money, money.”
England has just 639 of the latest full size 3G public pitches, each costing £550,000, while Germany has 3,735.