Football facilities are key to providing the right environment for positive experiences of the game and Kent FA are committed to improving the quality of facilities available across the county. However, we know that to do this, significant external investment is required as grassroots clubs often don’t have the reserves of their own to deliver facility development projects independently.
That’s why we work closely with the Football Foundation to support clubs apply for funding to deliver facility development projects. The Football Foundation is the country’s biggest sports charity and was established in 2000 and is jointly funded by the FA, the Premier League and the UK Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
Local Football Facility Plans
Each of the 13 local authority areas in Kent along with the London Borough’s of Bexley and Bromley have a Local Football Facilities Plan (LFFP) which guides the strategic investment into football facilities. The plans which were developed between 2019 and 2021 are framed into four areas including:
- 3G Pitches
- Grass Pitches
- Changing Pavilions
- Small Sided Facilities
Within these categories are a number of projects which have been prioritised for Football Foundation investment. This doesn’t guarantee funding as the landscape of facility provision in an area could change following the publication of the plans, however it does ensure that investment is strategically prioritised to meet the needs most effectively. Not every project that gets funded will need to be listed in the LFFPs, but for the larger projects such as new 3G pitches, it is likely to either need to be identified as a priority project within the plans or needs to be capable of replacing a project listed in the plans that is not able to be activated.
Check out the Local Football Facilities Plans in Kent here.
The larger projects can take a couple of years to develop to a point where a funding application can actually be submitted, whereas funding can be acquired within a matter of weeks for both grass pitch improvements projects and small projects such as replacement goalposts.
For grass pitch funding the start point is getting the pitches assessed using a web app developed by the Football Foundation called PitchPower. The app is easy to use and gives users the ability to submit information about their pitches to the Grounds Management Association who will then write a report about the pitch based on the information, including a number of bespoke recommendations of enhanced maintenance works that will improve the quality of the pitch. Receiving this report is also the green light to apply for Grass Pitch Maintenance Funding from the Football Foundation, which is a programme of revenue funding over a six year period which enables applicants to carry out the recommended works identified in the PitchPower report. There is up to £12,800 available per pitch so with poor quality pitches repeatedly being a key issue for the grassroots game, it is a great time to try and do something about it! You can find out how to get started.
Playing Pitch Protection
One of the more unseen areas of work is around the protection of pitches. Kent is known as the garden of England but with local authorities having significant house building targets, green spaces including football pitches sites are often at threat of being developed over. The FA working with the County FA network and the Football Foundation have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Sport England which ensures that if Sport England (who are a statutory consultee) are asked to comment on any planning application that has facilities for football, the local County FA are asked to provide local intel to help inform the response which would be either an objection or no objection. In Kent we will use our own data but also speak with clubs, leagues and prominent stakeholders to get an understanding of the current and historical usage of sites and back it up with evidence from documentation such as the LFFPs or the local authority Playing Pitch Strategies (PPS) which articulate the demand for facilities within the area. Sport England then use this information to assess whether the proposal which may see the loss of a playing pitch, meets one of their five exceptions which are:
1. There is an excess of playing field provision in the catchment which will remain the case should the development be permitted.
2. The proposed development is for ancillary facilities supporting the principal use of the site as a playing field, and does not affect the quantity or quality of playing pitches.
3. The proposed development affects only land incapable of forming part of a playing pitch.
4. The area of playing field to be lost as a result of the proposed development will be replaced, prior to the commencement of development by a new area of playing field of equivalent or better quantity and quality in a suitable location.
5. The proposed development is for a facility for sport which would outweigh the detriment caused by the loss of the existing playing area.
If it meets one of the five exceptions, Sport England will submit a no objection response to the local authority planners. This process not only helps protect the current facility stock but also means that in some cases developers mitigate a lost pitch with additional or better quality facilities in a suitable nearby location. It also means that when we are working with clubs or organisations on a major facility development we can submit a really positive case to Sport England about the impact the new facility will have which can influence the decision of the planners on whether to grant planning permission. So a really important piece of work that goes largely unseen.
If you would like to find out more about developing football facilities, contact Aidan Ainsley on Aidan.Ainsley@KentFA.com