FA Chairman Dyke backs Advertiser football campaign

Greg Dyke
Greg Dyke

Chairman Greg Dyke says the Football Association must adapt to growing culture changes and build “significantly more” artificial pitches to arrest the decline in grassroots football.

In a letter written to the Harrogate Advertiser Series backing the Support Grassroots Football campaign, Mr Dyke outlined the FA’s principles to manage the modern game.

He said it was “vital” for County FAs and local leagues to adapt the football on offer around people’s busy lives.

And he insisted building artificial pitches to aid young players’ development would be a priority.

In his letter, Mr Dyke said: “I commend the Harrogate Advertiser for its commitment to supporting grassroots football and am delighted to be given this opportunity to join the discussion.”

The number of players in leagues across the West Riding has dropped by almost 10 per cent in five years.

Figures show that squad sizes have grown on average from 18 players to 24. But Mr Dyke admitted that resembled a decline in committed participation.

Mr Dyke said: “It is no time to be ducking the issues that are afflicting grassroots and I for one am not prepared to do so.

“The Advertiser has rightly highlighted the drop off in participation locally and our own figures show this trend has been mirrored nationally in recent years.

He added: “Previous generations have fitted their lives around football, now we are facing the challenge of fitting football around this generation’s life.

“It is vital that we, the County FAs, the Leagues adapt – and we are already starting to do so.”

Last year, Mr Dyke staged an FA Commission reviewing the way football was administered across England with the help of key figures in the game and former professionals, including Harrogate resident Danny Mills.

The report released in October committed the FA to transforming football from the grassroots up.

Mr Dyke said: “What was immediately apparent [from the commission] is that we have over-reliance on publicly owned facilities. Due to fiscal pressures, budgets to support and subsidise the price and maintenance of pitches are progressively being tightened.

“These pressures make it harder for clubs to develop and grow their youth development programmes – which cannot be good news for the future of the game.

Dyke said more than £150million of additional investment will enhance the £100million the Government has already committed to improving facilities nationally.

Support for clubs will also continue to come from the football foundation, which Mr Dyke claims has contributed nearly £2million to the Harrogate district since 2000.

The FA chairman also proposed Monday night leagues which “may offer viable alternatives” to players.

He added: “Of course there is always more than can be done, but the Football Association remains committed to grassroots football and will remain its biggest champion.”