Football hubs with five new 3G playing pitches will be created in Sheffield in a £10 million pilot scheme to boost the game at grassroots level.
The city was chosen as the first location to benefit from a partnership with Greg Dyke’s FA Chairman’s England Commission, which will aim to create 30 football hubs and double the number of full size 3G pitches to over 1,000 across England by 2020.
In Sheffield, which has 10 of those pitches currently, five more will be created and details of the first two are to be revealed before Christmas in a report to Sheffield Council.
They are expected to be open in time for the football season next August - with the pitches spread across the city.
FA chairman Greg Dyke said local authorities’ budgets were being ‘squeezed’ and so there needed to be new ways to improve game facilities as well as reducing their maintenance costs.
He said: “Sheffield Council came to us and said look we’ve got a problem, we can’t afford to maintain all this stuff , can you help?
“Between us we’ve worked out this scheme - that’s why we are here in Sheffield.
“We were discussing it with two other cities but they moved so fast in Sheffield we thought we would do the pilot here.”
He said the facilities could help one of the city’s two clubs get back to the top in future by giving better facilities to future generations of players - creating more home-grown talent from the crucial under ten learning age.
Mr Dyke, who has businesses in Sheffield. added: “We would like to see most youth teams playing on these because its better for technique but it might be you and your mates on a Monday night.
“What we all know is what’s changed about football is the days of everything being played on a Saturday afternoon or a Sunday morning have gone.
“So what we are hoping with these sort of pitches is you can utilise them 80 hours a week with local leagues, kids’ football but also guys who just want to have a game.”
The entire scheme would cost £240m nationally over the next five years, with contributions expected from other sectors such as the Government and private businesses.
Mr Dyke said it ‘wasn’t a massive amount of money to transform football in cities across the country’.
The project, part of the final report from a year-long study aimed at improving the prospect of the England squad, also focuses on coach education and youth development.
In Sheffield most of the £10m cost will be paid by the FA, with Sheffield Council putting in around £1 million of capital funding.
Council leader Julie Dore said it was a matter of ‘investing to save’ as improving facilities would reduce maintenance costs in future.
The council is looking for new ‘innovative’ ways to provide the best services in the face of budget cuts, she added.
She added: “We’ve got a good reputation for sport in Sheffield, I know we haven’t got one club in the Premiership but that might be one of the things that this benefits.
“If footballers are able to play on a proper pitch on a regular basis, and they’re not having to go inside because of the weather, and they are better for coaching too then hopefully we can grow more world-class Premiership footballers in Sheffield in the future.”