Grassroots football has not been played in 2021 due to restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
From March 29, however, grassroots football can return and its comeback has been boosted by a cash injection of more than £16m.
The Government’s Football Foundation has teamed up with the FA and Premier League to make the money available, with three funds being set up as part of the “Game On” initiative that will look to help the 12 million grassroots footballers in the country.
The largest of those funds is the “Grass Pitch Maintenance Fund”, which totals £14m and will be launched on March 15.
It will provide six-year tapered grants to improve the quality of grass pitches. Thousands of football matches are cancelled every year because of problems with grass pitches and these grants form a key part of the Foundation’s overall Grass Pitch Programme, which hopes to improve at least 5,000 pitches by June 2024.
The second largest fund, the “Return to to Football Fund”, will target clubs in the highest areas of deprivation in England, disability football and groups under-represented in football – including women and girls.
It will support their return to football or activities aimed at bringing new players into the game. The Foundation has identified the groups most affected by the lockdown, where participation in football has decreased the most, and will seek to target funding towards them.
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham commented: “We are so looking forward to the safe return of grassroots football from 29th March and will do all we can to support clubs up and down the country get back to normal after what has been an unprecedented year of challenges.
“Grassroots football has a hugely positive impact by bringing communities together and improving the health of the nation.
“These new funds will provide crucial financial support to clubs and leagues, helping them to get the game we love up and running again.”
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters added: “There is huge excitement across the country ahead of the return of grassroots football at the end of the month.
“The game provides so many benefits for people of all ages and brings communities together which is now more vital than ever.
“The launch of these three funds will provide targeted support for clubs across the country with a range of grants designed to ensure a safe return of the grassroots game.”