Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Abraham Delivers His Pitch over Grassroots Development; Chelsea Youngster Says Kids Will Keep Improving Technique but Only If There Is More Investment

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Abraham Delivers His Pitch over Grassroots Development; Chelsea Youngster Says Kids Will Keep Improving Technique but Only If There Is More Investment

Article excerpt

Byline: EXCLUSIVE James Olley Chief Football Correspondent

TAMMY ABRAHAM picks the ball up out wide and sets off at speed in pursuit of goal. Nobody can catch him, except there is just one problem.

"I just kept running and didn't stop," he said, laughing with a hint of lingering embarrassment. "I was off the pitch. I didn't know. We were playing away at a park in London and couldn't even see the lines. That was probably my first experience of a bad pitch."

Abraham was just six and playing for south London side Bruin FC but what he describes is an experience that thousands of children can identify with. Data collected by the FA for the 2017/18 season and revealed this morning shows that only one in three grass pitches across the country are of "adequate quality". In excess of 147,000 grassroots matches were postponed due to pitch problems across 1,100 leagues in England.

Only 13 per cent of the 90,000 grassroots participants surveyed were satisfied with the state of the surface they regularly play on, while just 17 of the 50 County FA's have their own 3G pitch to help combat those issues.

This malaise is central to the FA's exploration of Shahid Khan's proposal to sell Wembley for a fee in excess of PS500million, a process which continues today with an FA Council meeting at which the proposal will be discussed.

Since 2000, the FA, Premier League and government have ploughed PS615m into grassroots football, which has helped to build 700 new and improved 3G pitches, but financial constraints resulting from the stadium debt and maintenance costs at Wembley have restricted further investment. The FA believe selling Wembley will enable them to build 1,500 pitches over the next 10 years, revolutionising the facilities available to young players and helping to avoid the experiences Abraham recalls.

"It is fantastic [the FA are investing more money]," said Abraham. "As a young player, growing up in London, there were not a lot of opportunities, so things like that really help. …

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