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Solid foundations in place for football development in FE

30 June 2020

As we come to the end of season four of our FA College Grassroots Hub strategy, our National Football Development Manager, Alice Kempski, looks back over the year. Despite it having to come to a premature finish due to COVID-19, many achievements and developments have been made within the FE sector that deserve to be highlighted. Our work to develop football through the College Grassroots Hubs has provided us with a number of key learnings. Importantly, we are now at a point where we have a solid foundation – a network of institutions who have developed their offers not only for their students to play competitively, but for students to play for fun, for people to learn to lead, coach and referee, and for colleges to serve their community through football hub partnerships. On average each college has engaged over 550 people through football, working through primary and secondary school infrastructures, supporting affiliated football clubs and leagues, or providing an offer for their students they serve. Furthermore we have made great strides forwards in the women’s game, supporting The FA to achieve their ambitious goals set out four years back within their Game Plan For Growth Strategy. In particular we have channelled significant investment and resource in to our trailblazing apprenticeship programme which we firmly believe is a blueprint for the future workforce and will be an initiative that is of particular interest as we look to rebuild the economy and restart football. The apprenticeship programme will continue into the 2020/21 year (despite our wider hub model changing form to better align to new strategy and the rebuild of the game). The upcoming apprenticeship programme will however look and feel significantly different – there are new colleges involved, we have selected a national training partner, Weston College, who will deliver the Level 3 Community Sport and Health Officer standard to all apprentices, and it will run for an extended duration of 22 months instead of 12. Whilst the year was cut short, we are delighted with the impact that FA College Grassroots Hubs had made. The statistics show the vast numbers of people that engaged with football as a result of the network and the investment into the people that can make a difference. The perfect example of this is the ECFA Growth Fund, which was awarded at the start of the year to 25 institutions to create new football, futsal or pan-disability football teams. Funds were used in a variety of ways from facility hire, coaches, purchasing or equipment to contributing to the costs of travel. We are pleased to share that all of the Growth Fund awardees are in a position to re-enter their team for the season ahead, signifying sustainability in the approach. Our comprehensive and varied competition offer for further education institutions provides offers at the right level for everyone, from players that just want to have a bit of fun, through to those aiming to make a career in the professional game. We want to thank everyone who has played their part in building the foundation we now have following four years of investment into College Grassroots Hubs. That includes staff, coaches, players, and partners, in particular The FA. Now it will be more important than ever that we share best practice, communicate our challenges, and ensure that we continue to use the power of football to connect with one another, retain or re-engage people in physical activity, and realise its benefits on wellbeing and cohesion of our communities. As we enter a new strategy in partnership with The Football Association we look forward to continuing our work with the existing hubs who will remain involved in the new-look network. We also look forward to widening our reach, and working with new colleges who wish to develop their football offers. Keep your eyes peeled for the launch!