The FA's new blueprint for grassroots football comes as millions are returning to play post-lockdown.
This plan will address the short, medium and long-term challenges to serve and lead the game for the many millions that play nationwide.
The strategy, titled ‘Survive. Revive. Thrive.’, outlines seven transformational objectives through to 2024:
Male participation – Modernised opportunities to retain and re-engage millions of male participants in the game
Female participation – A sustainable model based on a world-class, modernised offer
Club network – A vibrant national club network that delivers inclusive, safe local grassroots football and meets community needs
Facilities – Enhanced access to good quality pitches across grassroots football
Grassroots workforce – A transformation in community football by inspiring, supporting and retaining volunteers in the game
Digital products and services – An efficient grassroots digital ecosystem to serve the administrative and development needs of players, parents and the workforce
Positive environment – A game that’s representative of our diverse footballing communities, played in a safe an inclusive environment
The strategy, launched as grassroots football is able to return safely after lockdown from last Monday, also identifies the immediate challenge, in light of Covid-19, to get grassroots football back on its feet.
This includes continuing to focus on providing financial and business support to those that need it most whilst ensuring football can continue to be played in a safe and secure environment through The FA’s Covid-19 guidance.
The new strategy also sets out a number of goals to revive the game by addressing the areas that require particular attention.
This includes increasing opportunities to ensure girls have the same access as boys to football in schools and clubs, and improving quality of pitches, with the aim of seeing 5,000 good-quality pitches added to the current number by 2024.
The four-season long strategy also takes a look ahead to ensure the game thrives. Not only encouraging new participation at every age group and from historically under-represented groups, but also harnessing the power of digital to better connect participants to the game they love. It also means ensuring the game is played in a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment.
Underpinning the strategy is the long-standing partnership between The FA and County FAs, which will be crucial to its success. The partnership is committed to serving those that participate and are involved in the game, and providing the leadership needed to ensure future generations benefit from it as much as those that have played before.
Both The FA and County FAs are not-for-profit organisations that reinvest all of the money that they make back into football. The FA is planning to invest over £180m into grassroots football over the four seasons of the strategy.
James Kendall, The FA’s Director of Football Development said: "We are delighted to see the safe return of the grassroots game and are excited to announce our new four-year strategy after what has been an extremely difficult year.
"The FA’s commitment to grassroots football has remained resolute and this strategy is a clear demonstration of our long-term ambitions, which will ultimately play a role in improving the health and wellbeing of millions of individuals across the nation. This new strategy aims to ensure the grassroots game in England will survive, revive and thrive over the next four years.
"I’m confident that we'll seize on the remarkable togetherness and resilience our national game has shown in the face of Covid-19 and use it as a force for good. We recognise there is a huge amount to achieve, but we have set ourselves the challenge and look forward to delivering on this strategy which puts players at the very heart of everything we do."
To coincide with the launch of the grassroots strategy and return of grassroots football, The FA has also published a new report that explores the social and economic value of grassroots football in England, finding its value to equate to £10.16bn each year.
This year’s report, which follows on from research published in 2019, quantifies the social and economic value across the entire lifetime of a player for the very first time, from childhood participation through to football in later life.
The report, titled "The Social and Economic Value of Adult Grassroots Football in England", found that grassroots football in England has a considerable impact on a person’s mental and social wellbeing, highlighting mental health benefits for children and physical health benefits for older adults.