Cash windfall amuses president Routh

THE Football Association's recent initiative to invest £200million into transforming grassroots football brought a wry smile to the face of Ipswich Youth League president David Routh.

Elvin King

THE Football Association's recent initiative to invest £200million into transforming grassroots football brought a wry smile to the face of Ipswich Youth League president David Routh.

He has been involved with the league since it was formed 50 years ago, and keenly remembers coming up against official barriers a couple of decades ago.

“If we had taken the advice we were being given from some quarters we could have packed the league in,” said Routh.

“I had a visit from someone from the Ipswich Education Office based in Tower Street when I was told in no uncertain terms that competitive football for young players was not the way forward.

“They said that they did not believe in winners, and considerable pressure was put on us to discontinue our league.

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“But we kept it going, and now the FA has given leagues like ours their full backing.

“During the years - about 20 - when youth football was not condoned this country failed in its duty to produce quality players.”

The Ipswich Youth League now has over 160 teams offering Sunday football from Under-eight to Under-18 levels.

Routh is not happy, however, with the current distribution of money within football.

He added: “It all appears geared to produce super footballers not providing exercise for as many boys and girls as we can.

“All children, in my opinion, should be provided with free sporting opportunities.

“And let's face it, there is enough money generated within the FA Premier League to finance allchildren's football - from pitch hire to kits and referee payments.”

The FA National Game Strategy 2008-12 confirms the £200million investment and sets out a vision for developing grassroots football across England, with Suffolk County FA playing an integral role.

Over 37,000 people have been involved, from coaches, referees and players, to volunteers, fans, administrators and local authorities.

This includes people in Suffolk giving their views on what they would like to see implemented in the county.

Suffolk has been transformed with a football development team of six and responsible for areas as diverse as developing league competitions, girls and women's football, disability football, facility development, as well as supporting and training grassroots coaches and volunteers in schools and clubs.

Suffolk county secretary Martin Head said: “It's easy to forget that the vast majority of football played in this country is played at the grassroots, involving millions of people, week-in, week-out.

“The people of Suffolk will hopefully now see a real change in the grassroots game - from improved facilities to campaigns designed to improve player and spectator behaviour and provide more referees.”

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