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Lack of sporting fields sees young footballers turned away from junior clubs

Lack of sporting fields sees young footballers turned away from junior clubs
February 19, 2019

The critical shortage of playing fields across NSW has become so desparate that some football clubs have been forced to turn away many budding young footballers.

Football NSW today advised of the situation being experienced by the Sutherland Shire Football Association, the sport’s biggest association in Sydney with more than 18,000 players, that has had to put eligibility criteria in place due to the shortage of facilities and local demand to play.

Football NSW Chief Executive, Stuart Hodge stated “it’s a sad day when you are forced to say no to a young boy or girl who just wants to join a club and play the game with their friends - it’s not fair but in some cases, we simply don’t have the capacity anymore.”

To address the future of the game Football NSW, Football Northern NSW and Capital Football have undertaken a comprehensive NSW/ACT facilities audit to determine the current state of play, develop a plan for the future and provide decision-makers with a clear picture of where there is the greatest need. 

A key finding of the 10-month audit was that, based on current participation and annual growth rates, by 2030 Football in NSW will be 700 pitches short and will need to work with Councils and Governments to find additional fields of play for as many as 120,000 participants.

The findings demonstrated that 45% of all pitches had no irrigation and/or drainage, resulting in pitches becoming unplayable. Loss of training nights and match days in some areas is as much as 25% resulting in a less enjoyable football experience and uneven competitions when many matches are cancelled.

The most comprehensive report of its kind also found that;

• Just 54 pitches are synthetic
• 32% of playing grounds have no lighting
• 42% have lighting which is considered inadequate for football
• Only 41% of playing fields have irrigation and drainage
• 45% have no irrigation at all 

The data also provides a clear indication of which are the priorities in each association, club, venue, facility and the estimated cost of works.

Hodge said the greatest need is for synthetic fields and floodlights, adding “this will ensure year-round use, not just for football but it will also allow us to collaborate with other sports.

“Every football field from Byron Bay to Albury has been audited with some astounding results."

Football is the biggest participation sport in the State with more than 350,000 players registered to play the world game this year across NSW.

They will play across 1,000 sites and 2,284 pitches, with an average of 155 players using each football field across a season.

In some areas, like the Sutherland Shire, the ratio of players-to-pitches is as high as 280 to 1.

Northern NSW Football Chief Executive, David Eland, has urged the NSW Government to provide the necessary support from the $1 billion Regional Development Fund, commenting that the lack of quality and quantity of football fields could prevent further growth of the game.

Eland stated “football engages with so many individuals in every suburb across NSW, therefore facilities at the grassroots levels are so crucial, and we need action now.

“For football, indeed any sport, facilities are the lifeblood of the local community, and improving the quality and increasing the quantity of infrastructure across NSW will see social and health benefits filter through to all participants.”

Images (from top): A worn out golamouth at Fraser Park FC (now replaced by a synthetic surface), Stuart Hodge and Manly United's synthetic surface at Cromer Park is put to use.

Related Articles

1st November 2018 - Community impact of football in NSW to reach $1 billion by 2025

13th July 2018 - Smart Connection Consultancy releases world leading guidance for synthetic sports surfaces

22nd April 2018 - NSW leads nationwide efforts to encourage children’s activity

13th April 2018 - Sport NSW welcomes NSW Government funding for community facilities

11th April 2018 - Sydney’s Northern Beaches Council opens new synthetic football field

10th April 2018 - Football NSW commences Facilities Audit

2nd March 2018 - Football NSW launches 2018 facilities audit

17th November 2017 - New AusPlay figures show football leads sport participation rates in Australia

7th June 2017 - Rockdale City Suns’ Bicentennial Park to get first synthetic field in Bayside Council area

29th April 2017 - Northern Beaches Council considers sacrificing golf courses for sports fields

8th December 2015 - FFA survey shows boom in football participation

21st August 2015 - Warringah Council opens two synthetic sports fields

30th July 2014 - Sutherland Shire backs multiple synthetic sports field installations

16th April 2013 - Major sports to present approaches to synthetic turf at the inaugural surfaces conference

17th April 2011 - Northbridge FC Synthetic Surface beats Sydney rain

8th December 2010 - First Installations of zero infill long pile synthetic turf

24th August 2010 - New campaign highlights benefits of club sports for kids

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