The Football Foundation

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15 years of developing the most effective and efficient facilities investment systems

By Niall Malone

The Football Foundation was conceived by the Premier League, The FA and the Government in 2000 to improve grassroots facilities, and to get more people playing our national game. Since then we have awarded grants worth £513m and multiplied our Funding Partners’ investment by attracting an additional £730m in partnership funding, which means more than £1.2bn has been invested into the grassroots game.

Part of this cash injection has resulted in the development of 500 of the country’s 639 third generation (3G) artificial grass pitches. That might look like an impressive number but when you compare it to the 3,735 3G pitches in Germany, it only serves as an indication of how much more work needs to be done.

Bridging that gap will take time and money, but the Foundation has developed the facility delivery systems which can achieve this. The systems are cost effective and produce results quickly, so much so that other organisations, including Barclays and the Mayor of London/Greater London Authority, have now also partnered with us to deliver their investment programmes.

The four pillars that the Foundation has built its success on are: experienced staff; effective processes; targeted investment and robust monitoring and evaluation. The marriage of these themes meant that in the last financial year, at sites delivered by the Football Foundation, there was:

  • 11% growth in the number of people who played football.
  • 25.8% growth in the number of people who played multi-sport.
  • 700,206 people played sport.
  • 24,942,136 hours of sporting activity.
  • 23,558 coaching qualifications gained.
  • 6,071 new female footballers were created thanks to the Grow the Game Scheme.
  • 23,558 coaching qualifications gained at sites delivered by the Foundation.


The Football Foundation’s 50 staff have a wealth of grant-giving experience and a commitment to developing new technology and continuously improving processes, which increase capacity and capability while reducing overhead costs. We encourage independent auditing to ensure that the Foundation provides the best possible value for money outcomes for the investment made – every single investment is ‘squeezed’ to ensure that projects deliver at least agreed outcomes and ideally more. This approach has enabled the Foundation to reduce its operating costs by 20% over the last five years, while continuing to multiply Funding Partners’ investment.


The Foundation’s grant-giving processes have been honed over fifteen years and its delivery capability is now one of the most robust and transparent of any grant-giving organisation. The Foundation’s latest technological advancement – Grantshot – provides internet banking-style features, guiding applicants through every stage of the funding process, providing application information 24 hours a day, whenever it is needed, and a continuous, up-to-date view of all applications at the touch of a button. The 24-hour a day transparency provided by Grantshot has resulted in an 80% reduction of calls and e-mails, enabling us to focus on what really matters and making us even more efficient.

Wodson Park’s General Manager Jan Stock recently relied on Grantshot to steer her through the application process for her Hertfordshire-based project: “I found Grantshot very easy to use during Wodson Park’s application for a refurbished 3G AGP”, she said, “The system clearly outlined what stage of the application process I was at, which meant I didn’t need to contact the Foundation for updates. I dislike unnecessary admin, and Grantshot eliminated that – it was perfect for keeping all the documents I needed in one place, which helped me put together our successful application.”


The Foundation’s independently verified monitoring and evaluation system shows that, last year alone, there was an average increase in football participation of 11% at facilities funded by the Foundation, with an increase of 25.8% across all other sports. Results like this reaffirm that investment in quality facilities encourages more people to play sport. However, investment needs to be properly targeted and effectively managed through the full life of the facility to achieve maximum impact. This is why the Foundation’s Pitchfinder system – the most complete database of football pitches across the country – is so integral to our targeting.

Pitchfinder is a database of over 22,000 football sites. It provides details of what is available at each, for example, types of pitches and whether or not they are supported by floodlights and/or changing rooms. Pitchfinder not only provides the general public with an easily accessible, web-based resource to identify football facilities near them, but the quality of its data is such that it also provides a strategic assessment tool for the Foundation’s grant managers to direct funding to where it is most needed and have the greatest impact.


The Foundation is dedicated to a through-life approach; unlike most grant-giving bodies, our interest does not finish once a grant has been awarded. In fact the opening of a new facility marks only the beginning of the next, crucial stage in a project’s relationship with the Foundation, specifically with the Foundation’s Knowledge & Insight team. Upshot has been developed by the Foundation to enable it to monitor and evidence the delivery of agreed outcomes from funded projects throughout their useful life. It is not the building itself that matters most to the Foundation, it is how effective it is in delivering expected outcomes throughout its useful life that matters most. By monitoring ongoing performance, and providing support when required, we can make sure that every project we invest in delivers what is expected – and in most cases exceed this.

It also means that we can help projects who are not meeting their targets, like the Longhill Ward Community Association. They received £443,774 from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation, in 2004 towards the complete renovation of the Eastmount Recreation Centre in Hull. When the new centre reopened it quickly became a sporting hub for the local community until a devastating flood in 2010 meant that all the incumbent sports teams had to seek tenancy elsewhere. However, the Foundation’s commitment to all its projects meant that one of our Grant Managers offered additional support to secure the venue’s long-term future. This saw the Longhill Ward Community Association take possession of the building from the council, which allowed the centre to diversify the business model and open a café on site. This in conjunction with liaison with local football clubs and teams from other sports saw the centre return to a focal point of community sports activity.


The systems we have developed for delivering facilities investment are so sophisticated that other organisations, including Barclays and the Mayor of London/Greater London Authority, have now also partnered with us. Here is a full list of all the schemes that we deliver:


A three-year £102m commitment, the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund provides grants for building or refurbishing grassroots facilities, such as changing pavilions and playing surfaces for community benefit. The Foundation delivers this using funding it receives from the Premier League, The FA and the Government through Sport England.


Central to the Mayor’s commitment to deliver a sporting legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Mayor of London: Sports Facilities Fund aims to raise participation levels in sport in London. Funding goes towards developing new affordable, high-quality facilities or refurbishing old ones.


Barclays Spaces for Sports has developed over 200 of the country’s sports sites and continues to have a profound impact on community sports. The scheme is the biggest ever sports CSR programme in the UK and has won seven major industry awards.


The FA and Foundation’s Respect barriers and Respect packs (made up of captains’ armbands, marshals’ bibs and Respect Signage) are available to football leagues and clubs to encourage good behaviour by players and parents alike. Funding for this scheme is provided by The FA and vouchers supplied by the Foundation.


The highly popular Grow the Game scheme provides grants of up to £1,500 for the creation of new football teams and coaching qualifications, with money provided by the Premier League and The FA. Delivered by the Foundation, The scheme is targeted to improve access to football and coaching standards, with the Foundation receiving funding from The FA to provide vouchers to clubs.

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