The Grass Can Be Greener On Your Side
Around 87% of affiliated football is played on grass pitches. Still, players cite poor-quality grass pitches as the number one issue affecting the grassroots game, and unfortunately, a number of matches are cancelled due to poor pitch quality.
In partnership with the Premier League and the Football Foundation, The FA is revolutionising the state of grassroots football pitches across England to ensure that by 2030, grassroots football has 20,000 ‘good’ quality pitches to enjoy.
To help realise this ambition, the Football Foundation has developed a web app called PitchPower which allows the football community to carry out their own grass pitch inspections easily and digitally. A few weeks after you complete your inspection, you’ll receive a bespoke report for each of your pitches containing a Pitch Quality Standard rating and extensive guidance on what you need to do to improve your pitch. You can also now apply for all of the Football Foundation grass pitch improvement funds. If you need support with your first PitchPower inspection, you can request a Support Pitch Advisor to come out and show you what to do.
How to undertake a PitchPower assessment
- Add yourself to PitchPower - You’ll need to create a login to pitchpower.org.uk and join your organisation. Add the relevant home ground as a site and then add the football pitches. Make sure you have it downloaded on your phone.
- Budget - Collate details on the current budget spent on your site on maintenance and renovations.
- Cancellations - Collate details of how frequently games are cancelled on the site. You’ll need this on a per-pitch basis.
- Drainage - Note whether each pitch has a drainage system installed and if so, what type and what year it was installed.
- Equipment – Note details on any maintenance equipment you have access to (exclude any contractor machinery) including the name on the item, the condition and the year it was purchased.
- Fixtures – Note details on how many hours of matchplay each pitch has, and how many hours of training the pitch has on average per week during the main part of the season. Also, note whether the pitch has recreational use or not.
Now you’ve completed steps A to F and you are now able to go out to the pitches with a phone, measuring tape and spade or soil sampling equipment to undertake the physical assessment. (You can get 15% off a soil sampler and deadblow mallet from bmsproducts.com by using code FF2021 at checkout). During the process you will need to enter some of the information you have collated above so make sure you have this to hand either mentally or jotted down somewhere so you can enter the details as you progress through the assessment. Each pitch should take 30 mins to complete but this will speed up the more you do them. You can see some examples of how to do each measurement on this YouTube playlist.
Once you have completed your assessment for each pitch, you should receive your report from the Grounds Management Association within 21 days (this may be longer if the GMA is dealing with lots of applications at the same time).
Your report will include a Performance Quality Standard rating of either Poor, Basic, Good or Advanced. You will be able to access Grass Pitch Maintenance Funding based on this rating. The report will guide you on what you need to do to each pitch and advice on equipment and maintenance you may need to invest in.
Grass Pitch Funding
The Grass Pitch Maintenance Fund provides applicants with a tapered six-year grant to help them enhance their pitches if they are considered ‘poor’ or ‘basic’ or to sustain them if they are considered ‘good’ or above. Applicants can expect to see improved pitches within 18 months if they invest in the Grass Pitch Maintenance Funding as indicated within the PitchPower report. You’ll need your PitchPower report ID to apply so make sure you’ve got that handy.
How to apply for Grass Pitch Maintenance Funding
To apply you will need one of the following:
- The freehold for the site
- An uninterruptable lease or licence with at least 10 years left to run
- A lease or licence with at least 12 months left to run, accompanied with the Landlord & Tenant Form [Download]
- In the absence of any suitable lease or licence, the Grass Pitch Maintenance Agreement Pro Forma can be used [Download]
If the lead applicant is from an Education Establishment or Town / Parish Council, the Grass pitch Service Level Agreement (SLA) will need to be completed too. You’ll need to log in to the Football Foundation application portal here.
Click on Start your Application under the Grass Pitch Maintenance Fund option. Make sure you have your PitchPower Inspection ID to hand as you will need this in order to progress.
You will be able to apply for the following for each pitch depending on the Performance Quality Standard which was identified in your PitchPower report.
|Pitch Size||PQS - Advanced or Good||PQS - Basic or Poor|
|Mini Soccer (5v5/7v7)||£384||£1,920|
The funding can be received every year for 6 years though it is reduced from year 3 onwards in the following way, with the applicant suggested to contribute an increasing amount so that by year 7, the applicant is covering 100% of the costs. The example below is for one 11v11 pitch initially rated as basic.
|Year||Grant Value (Football Foundation)||Applicant recommended contribution|
|1||£3,200 (100%)||£0 (0%)|
|2||£3,200 (100%)||£0 (0%)|
|3||£2,133 (66%)||£1,066 (33%)|
|4||£2,133 (66%)||£1,066 (33%)|
|5||£1,066 (33%)||£2,133 (66%)|
|6||£1,066 (33%)||£2,133 (66%)|
Pitches that come out as good or advanced will have no applicant contribution required but a smaller grant. For pitches that are basic or poor the applicant contribution from year three is based on the actual spend in year. The Football Foundation will reimburse 66% of the spend in year 3 up to a maximum of £2,133.
The funding can be spent on the following:
- Contractor works e.g. slitting, scarification or decompaction
- Purchasing materials e.g. seed or fertiliser
- Purchasing equipment e.g. Soil Sampler
You can also use the same process to apply for Grass Pitch Machinery Fund. You can apply for up to £25,000 however the total grant cannot exceed 75% of the total project cost. Again you will need your PitchPower report ID.
Good practice for maintaining pitches is to have a PitchPower assessment undertaken on the pitches twice a season so that up-to-date advice can be provided from the Grounds Management Association and also how the pitch is improving can be tracked. If you receive Grass Pitch Maintenance Funding from the Football Foundation then this will be a condition of the funding and will need to be undertaken once between 1st November and 31st March and then a second one either 1st Sept to 31st Oct or 1st Apr and 30th June. It’s not advisable to undertake an assessment in the hot summer months of July and August as the ground may be too hard to get a spade or soil sampler into and also the report won’t accurately reflect the state of the pitch during the playing part of the year. If all your pitches on a site reach a “Good” Pitch Quality Standard you will be awarded one of Kent FA’s “Good Pitches” wall plaques.