DESPITE facing funding cuts, ageing facilities and decreasing participation, grassroots football in Chester is faring better than most.
That is the view of the secretary of the Chester and District Football League (CDFL), who believes grassroots football in the area is keeping its head above water thanks to the proactive attitude of the league and strength of community involvement.
Many amateur leagues across the country have seen their pitch fees rise and facilities fall into disrepair, as local authorities have been forced to sacrifice funding for the beautiful game in order to make necessary savings.
CDFL secretary Paul Graham said: “In some areas of the country pitch fees are astronomical.
“It is strangling the grassroots game and teams are having to pack up. We would strongly oppose any such price hikes in Chester.
“Pitches and facilities are in a poor condition and the bad weather hasn’t helped.
The council doesn’t have the money, we appreciate that, and there are things they need to focus their funding on more than football.
“What we can see is a cost saving exercise that passes the cost onto the clubs and we are going round doing this work in our spare time.
“We have tried to be as proactive as possible and work with the council. We have taken over the management and refurbishment of the pitches on Hoole Park to ensure they do not fall into disrepair and have recently paid for new plumbing at the changing rooms.
“There is no drainage on a lot of these pitches so the recent poor weather has been a nightmare for some. We have already lost two teams this season as a result.
“If we wouldn’t have done it we were told that we would have lost the use of those facilities. For us to lose these would have been criminal.”
The Football Association this week revealed a three-year plan to improve some 3,000 pitches across England, as well as 150 artificial pitches, 100 all-weather pitches and refurbishment of facilities and changing rooms around the country, something which has been welcomed by Mr Graham.
He added: “The FA have some good initiatives for youth football but a lot of what they do is aimed at the youth game and could be at the expense of the adult game.
“The community needs to get involved. It is key.
“That is what we are trying to do and that is what stands us out from other leagues.
We are trying to court involvement where people enjoy playing.
“People just want to play football.
“If we haven’t got the facilities then we are going to lose a lot of people from the game.
“Leagues have got to be creative and make the most of what they have got and there has got to be a change in attitude.
“We all need to stand up and be counted.”