Waterlogged grassroots football pitch

Grassroots football in the UK might be on life support, but there is still hope for the future. While the cost of living crisis has affected the game in communities across the country, help is available — albeit limited in nature. 

While the issue of chronic underfunding is still holding the game back at the grassroots level, there are some funding initiatives available. And with ongoing support from the FA and The Football Foundation, it might be possible to turn the situation around before an entire generation of potential superstars take another path. 

The fight for the future of grassroots football is something the English FA is taking seriously. Its ‘Strategy for Grassroots Football’ identified 30 strategic priorities in the fight to save the game in communities across the country. 

So what is the strategy? What can it achieve? And how’s it going so far? Let’s find out.

A Blueprint for Revitalizing Grassroots Football in England

The Football Association has unveiled a comprehensive strategy to rejuvenate grassroots football from 2020 to 2024, aiming to strengthen the very foundation of English football. The strategy, aptly titled "Survive. Revive. Thrive.", embodies the FA's commitment to ensuring the enduring vitality of the sport across communities.

Objectives and Focus

The core of the strategy revolves around three pillars: survival, revival, and thriving. It outlines a set of key objectives geared towards enhancing participation and engagement at the grassroots level. Notably, the strategy prioritises modernised opportunities for male involvement, with a targeted increase of six percentage points by 2024. This emphasis on inclusivity and accessibility underscores the FA's dedication to fostering a diverse and inclusive football landscape.

Volunteer Support and Inspiration

Central to the success of grassroots football are the volunteers who tirelessly contribute their time and effort. Recognising their pivotal role, the strategy places significant emphasis on inspiring, supporting, and retaining volunteers. By providing them with the necessary resources and recognition, the FA aims to ensure the sustainability and growth of grassroots football initiatives.

Aligning with Societal Changes

Moreover, the FA's strategy is not static but adaptive, aligning with broader societal and economic shifts. By harnessing the power of grassroots football, the FA seeks to address contemporary challenges and opportunities, ensuring its continued relevance and impact in an ever-evolving landscape.

In essence, the FA's Strategy for Grassroots Football embodies a forward-looking approach, driven by a commitment to revitalise and sustain the grassroots ecosystem. Through strategic objectives and targeted initiatives, the FA aims to secure the future of English football at the community level.

It’s Time for Change

As part of the FA’s Strategy for Grassroots Football, the Time for Change initiative aims to drive participation by improving areas of the game in need of support. 

Focused on grassroots development, equality, diversity, inclusion, and sustainability, the initiative embodies the FA's dedication to ensuring football remains accessible and inclusive for all. 

By launching specific strategies tailored to each area, the FA is attempting to demonstrate its proactive approach to fostering positive change within the sport.

Through the Time for Change initiative, the FA is attempting to revitalize grassroots football by making it a truly national pastime once again; a force for inclusion and community harmony. By engaging stakeholders, implementing targeted programs, and fostering collaboration across the football community, the FA believes it can create a better future for every level of the beautiful game. 

The Core Objectives of the FA’s Strategy for Grassroots Football

It’s important to note that this particular strategy doesn’t come with a development fund of any kind; it’s merely a series of objectives and strategies designed to improve grassroots football across England. 

The key objectives are: 

Male Participation

There should be evamped opportunities to engage and retain millions of male players with modernised approaches.

Female Participation

The FA is trying to develop a sustainable model with a world-class, modernised framework to encourage and support female involvement in football.

Club Network

The goal here is to establish a dynamic national club network focused on providing inclusive, safe grassroots football that caters to community needs.


The FA is attempting to improve access to high-quality pitches in some of the most deprived communities in the country.

Grassroots Workforce

The scheme involves the establishment of a transformative approach to community football by inspiring, supporting and retaining volunteers within the game.

Digital Products and Services

There’s a plan to develop an efficient digital ecosystem that caters to the administrative and developmental needs of players, parents and volunteers.

Positive Environment

Cultivating a game environment that mirrors the diversity of football communities — emphasising safety and inclusivity.

Is the Strategy Working?

Initiated in 2021, the four-year plan is now well underway. But is it delivering results? The short answer is yes, which is great news for the future of the game at all levels. 

We’ll need to wait until next year for the FA to publish its data. But a number of local associations are reporting significant increases in the various metrics being used to judge the strategy’s efficacy. Here are Hertfordshire FA’s numbers:

  • Male participation up to 40,793
  • Female participation up to 6,656
  • Disability participation up to 474
  • Number of Weetabix Wildcats centres up to 40
  • Clubs with a full female pathway up to 21
  • Total registered referees up to 1,164
  • 1,039 recorded instances of Coach CPD in the last season
  • 61 Grass Pitches improved
  • Youth teams with a qualified coach 88%
  • 86% of youth clubs are now FA-accredited
  • 34% of adult clubs are now FA-accredited

All of these numbers represent a significant increase on 2020 figures. It would seem the strategy is delivering results. And as long as funding continues complementing the strategy’s core objectives, the future is looking surprisingly bright.