Our England team’s incredible run to the final captured hearts and minds across the nation, creating a rare moment of national unity and celebration.
Despite yesterday’s result, their journey has given us all hope, inspiring many to pull on a shirt and sing their support or kick a football about with friends for the first time in ages, following what has been a trying time for everyone.
But great achievements on the pitch can also lead to even better ones off it – and now is the moment to seize it.
As the nation’s favourite game, football is uniquely placed to address some of the pressing challenges facing our country today as we get back to our feet following the pandemic, creating a long-lasting legacy that benefits us all.
At the Football Foundation, we know from experience the transformative impact grassroots football facilities can have on people’s physical and mental health, bringing communities closer together as well as benefiting local economies.
We also know that good quality facilities enable greater football participation, with just one in eight football clubs satisfied with the quality of their pitches, and thousands of opportunities to play the game lost to poor conditions every year.
It’s only right, then, that we should do everything we can to ensure communities up and down the country get access to good places to play. Investing in new football facilities is one of the best ways to support the country’s health and economic recovery post-Covid.
Over the past 21 years, with the investment from the Premier League, the FA and the government, the Football Foundation has been able to unlock £1.6bn of investment to improve local football facilities. We’ve delivered over 17,000 projects, including hundreds of artificial grass pitches, thousands of improved natural grass pitches, goalposts, changing rooms and pavilions.
Even some of yesterday’s heroes, like Harry Kane, Harry Maguire and Kalvin Phillips, played on facilities we funded as they grew up, proving what a difference good grassroots facilities can make.
That’s just a start. There’s lots more work to do if we are to create the facilities all our communities need and deserve. That’s why we need the additional £550m of investment committed by the government last year to flow through into the grassroots game, to add to the vital ongoing support that the Premier League, the FA and the government already gives.
The England team has undoubtedly shown us that achieving your goal requires more than just resources, plans and ambition. It requires relentless commitment, team work, belief and inspired leadership. Our communities need this spirit now more than ever and we hope this historic victory in reaching the final will act as a launching pad to release more funding for grassroots football facilities.
Whilst this European Championships may be over, we are now gearing up towards the Women’s Euros 2022 in England and starting out on the road to the 2030 World Cup. So, we have a landmark moment to truly capitalise on the passion for our national game and unlock the power of football pitches for those who need it most.
Robert Sullivan is CEO of the Football Foundation