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SBD Global/March 28, 2014/Finance

Football Association Loses $2.7M In Public Funding Due To Declining Participation Figures

The FA has been stripped of £1.6M ($2.7M) of taxpayers' money after "failing to reverse an alarming decline in the number of people regularly playing the game," according to Ben Rumsby of the London TELEGRAPH. The FA was punished by Sport England, "the quango charged with investing public money in grassroots sport, for the sharp drop in participation in football" since '06. Sport England CEO Jenny Price said that the cut sent "a serious message" to the FA that it must "'deliver results' or face further action." Football was one of "six sports to have its funding reduced, with golf the next most affected," having seen £500,000 ($830,500) taken away. Cricket, rugby union and badminton, however, "escaped any cut, despite also suffering a worrying decline in numbers in recent years" (TELEGRAPH, 3/27). In London, Josh White reported the FA "blamed lower participation on poor weather and increasing costs, but the funding announcement is a major embarrassment" for the organization and FA Chair Greg Dyke as it "seeks to place a grassroots overhaul at the heart of its strategy." Sport England indicated that 1.84 million people are "playing football regularly, a drop of 100,000" since last April. Furthermore, 2 million people were "frequently playing" in '06, suggesting a "more worrying, long-term trend." Price "believes the decision could be a wake-up call for the FA." Price said, "We’ve invested, over four years, £30 million of public money in the FA so they have a real responsibility to spend it wisely and deliver results. Taking £1.6 million away is a real sign they need to do something different and I think they will take it seriously." Sport England, which seeks to "provide finances for the participation of sport on a national level, is also cutting the cash allocated to golf, netball, hockey, mountaineering and rowing." The Lawn Tennis Association is having £10M ($16.6M) of its funding "withheld until it can prove that it has a strategy to arrest the decline in numbers of those taking up amateur tennis" (LONDON TIMES, 3/27).

            Sport England's Active People Survey
 SPORT April '12-
April '13
Oct. '12-
Oct. '13    
Change    
Swimming 2.88 million 2.93 million
Increase
Athletics 1.95 million 2.02 million      
Increase
Cycling     1.86 million
2 million
Increase
Football     
1.94 million     
1.84 million
Decrease      
Golf
771,000 751,000 Decrease
Tennis 423,400 400,600 Decrease
Squash 257,100 240,700 Decrease
Rugby union    
166,000 159,600 Decrease
Boxing 149,700
154,800 Increase
Cricket
189,000 148,300 Decrease
Source: Sport England

FA 'DISAPPOINTED'
: Also in London, Owen Gibson reported the FA said that it was "disappointed" with the decision and "suggested it had not been given enough time to show that its plan was working." The number of 16-year-olds and older playing football has "gone down from 2.02 million to 1.84 million" since '05, when Sport England's active people survey began. Price said that the FA was now "more focused on the problem than it had been in the past but must translate words into action." Price: "They are more engaged than they have been for some time. They do want to get it right but they need to accelerate their efforts." Sport England will use the £1.6M it is deducting from the FA to fund a "football city" pilot -- a trial "looking at new ways of encouraging people to play the game, including casual and small-sided matches." Cities will be invited to bid for the fund, which will be used to "test new ideas that could be rolled out nationally." Price: "It's got to be about jumpers for goalposts and small-sided games as well as traditional 11 v 11 on a Saturday afternoon" (GUARDIAN, 3/27). REUTERS' Mike Collett wrote while "so much money is swishing around at the top end of the game, with top professional clubs investing millions in fancy academies, the reality for millions of recreational players is pot-holed pitches littered with dog excrement, wonky goal posts and dilapidated changing rooms" (REUTERS, 3/27).

PRIOR WARNING: The BBC's David Bond reported Sport England warned the FA last year that it could lose up to 20% of its £30M overall public funding package for the '13-17 period if it "failed to halt the fall in numbers." While the cut of £1.6M is "small in comparison with the FA's overall turnover" -- which was more than £300M in '12 -- Sport England says it "represents 10% of the remaining money specifically allocated to the FA for increasing participation." In total, the FA distributes £43M ($71.4M) a year to grassroots projects. As part of its review process, Sport England "not only considered participation numbers but also each sport's plans to try to increase interest at grassroots level." That is "why other sports that have experienced a decline in participation -- such as cricket, rugby union and badminton -- have not had any funding removed this year" (BBC, 3/27).
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