Back in 2013, chairman of the FA, Greg Dyke announced his ‘England Commission’ which included new proposals to ‘change the rules governing home grown players in English football’.

The commission’s findings were only announced in May this year so it’s far too early to discuss any impact. As champions of grassroots football, Quickplay Sport fully supports the aims of the commission, so in this article we look at the areas of concern and suggest one solution we think could really help.

The FA themselves have admitted that the commission highlights that “much more work needs to be done” concerning “coaching and grassroots facilities”.

Greg DykeGreg Dyke said: "We want to continue to have the best foreign players playing in England and to strengthen the quality and excitement of the Premier League and the rest of English club football. But we also want to develop ways of giving more English players the best chance of achieving their potential by enabling them to play football at the very highest level. We believe that this is not only in the best interests of the national team and the young English players themselves, but also in the interests of the professional football clubs who are spending millions of pounds on youth development programmes and are currently getting only a very limited return on their investment."

Greg Dyke has hit the nail on the head here. Like anyone committed to grassroots football we know that the key thing is getting the balance right. We all want to watch great footballers and have the world’s best playing in England. But that shouldn’t be at the expense of the great bulk of kids and adults who play the game week in week out.

Youth development should not be solely the domain of the clubs. For example, how about exploring money from TV rights being distributed directly to the grassroots game? The FA and the Premier League should lobby the clubs to ensure that a small percentage of any rights deal goes directly to an independent body for the distribution of funds to grassroots football. Even 5% of any deal could make a huge difference.

Of course The Football Foundation already invests heavily in grassroots football but more of that in a moment. But what would that money be spent on? Dyke’s commission outlined four ‘problem areas’:

  1. Inadequate and insufficient competitive playing opportunities for 18-21 year-old elite players at top clubs 
  2. Regulation of the player market in England is not effective in preserving the desired balance of British, EU and non-EU players in clubs 
  3. Coaching and coach development, especially at grassroots level, have not yet reached a satisfactory level and impact
  4. England lags behind in the quantity and quality of affordable grassroots facilities, particularly in the provision of all-weather pitches.

All Weather PitchWe don’t think that the first two areas there have any impact on grassroots football, except in that the other two areas need to be addressed to create good enough homegrown players to play for top clubs. It’s clear that the top clubs themselves have enough money and resources to create such playing opportunities and that it would be just a case of creating the right system. 

As for the regulation of the job market that is a clear job for the FA and they need to work harder at that. Where we think the money should be spent and a successful culture must be created is in areas three and four.

Coaching development and the provision of high-level but affordable facilities should absolutely be the two main areas of focus for the FA when it comes to grassroots football.

The TV-rights funded, independent body that we have suggested could take the lead in tackling these two challenges head-on.

Development of coaches and administrators could be widened beyond just training to be a coach on the field. For example, finding and developing players living in areas of deprivation or those with challenging backgrounds, would widen the net and allow more players into the system.

This is just one idea to broaden the base and allow grassroots football to develop. When it comes to facilities, The Football Foundation recently celebrated its 15th anniversary with an announcement that it has across those fifteen years invested £1.3bn in grassroots football. There have been 13,249 projects supported with 530 artificial pitches created. So there’s a crucial problem here. We think it might be that the Football Foundation’s great work only creates great facilities. It’s too easy to just say ‘it’s still not enough money’.

The key thing is that areas three and four of Dyke’s report are combine and addressed together. An independent body would work to make coaches, development and facility provision work together for the good of the sport.

So what do you think? What are the real challenges to Greg Dyke’s vision?