As the nation prepares to back England’s World Cup campaign, Sport England today announces that Manchester, Nottingham and Portsmouth have been shortlisted to become England’s first ‘City of Football’.
The shortlisted cities fought off competition from 22 cities bidding for the title, demonstrating a commitment to uniting public, private and voluntary organisations to do whatever it takes to get more people – particularly those aged 14-25 years – playing all forms of the grassroots game regularly.
Over the summer, the shortlisted cities will develop full proposals for how they will turn this commitment into a plan to get more people in their city playing the game regularly. Sport England will visit each city and work with the consortium to develop these plans.
Phil Smith, Sport England’s Director of Sport, says: “Football is our national game and we want everyone who wants to play to be able to. Yet despite demand for the game, the number of over 16s playing regularly is falling. We want to support one of these cities to become a test-bed for developing innovative ways to get more people playing the game so that we can share best practice across the nation and unlock the latent demand for football that is at the heart of every community. We look forward to working with each city over the coming months to develop their ideas.”
Kelly Simmons, the FA's Director of National Game and Women's Football, says: “World Cup fever is about to sweep the nation, and we want to ensure that it will inspire players of all ages and abilities to get out and play football regularly in a way that suits them. Despite the growth in children's football we are facing challenges retaining and growing the number of adult players wanting to play on a weekly basis. The City of Football is an opportunity for everyone involved in football to come together to test new ways of opening up football opportunities for everyone. We look forward to sharing our expertise, as well discovering new insights, as the pilot progresses."
In the autumn the title will be awarded to one city along with up to £1.6 million of National Lottery funding to run a two-year pilot programme. The results will be monitored and evaluated throughout and learnings will be shared widely to help get more people playing football regularly across the country.
The application process revealed a huge appetite amongst cities across England to explore new ways to open up football. Sport England will meet with each of the 19 cities that didn’t make the shortlist to identify ways in which this commitment can be maintained and built upon.
The number of over 16s playing football regularly fell from 2.2million in June 2012 to 1.8million in December 20131. As a result, earlier this year Sport England announced that it would invest £1.6million in a pilot ‘City of Football’ to find new ways to get more people playing football regularly.
The pilot will run alongside over £160 million of existing activity from Sport England to develop the grassroots game, including funding new facilities, running community programmes and working with partners such as the FA, Premier League and the Football Foundation.