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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 March, 2005, 16:17 GMT
Grassroots issues worry Brooking
By John May

FA director of development Sir Trevor Brooking
Sir Trevor Brooking fears a lack of facilities at grassroots level could ultimately threaten England's World Cup hopes.

The Football Association's Director of Football Development admits there are fears the 11-a-side game is dying.

Brooking told BBC Sport: "Whenever I've been to Brazil the first thing I've noticed is there are plenty of pitches.

"Pitches are disappearing all the time in this country, which means youngsters don't develop their skills in the proper environment."

Brooking, speaking at the BBC Sport Summit, said figures show that participation in short-sided games is at record levels.

But while he was encouraged that more people play football, he admitted the FA's concerns that players were losing interest or not taking up the full form of the game.

A lack of pitches and poor facilities were just two factors leading to the drain on the full version of the game.

Brooking said: "We're aware of the problems and trying to address them. Not everyone who plays 11-a-side football in their local Sunday League is good enough to play for England.

When I was a lad you went down to the local parks and kicked a ball around until it got dark
FA Director of Development Sir Trevor Brooking

"But if you want quality at the top, you have to have a broad base at the pyramid.

"The key problem is getting hold of kids when they're between 11-15. Professional club academies and centres of excellence do good work, but there has to be a safety net to catch those players who fall through.

"One of the biggest problems is that people play 11-a-side football at school, but when they leave they stop playing because there isn't a natural link between schools and club football.

"At the moment, the FA doesn't have a regional structure that allows us to put coaches in place in the areas they're needed to encourage youngsters.

"There are also social issues as well. What we term 'informal play' has been reduced, and that's crucial.

"By 'informal play' I mean what I used to do when I was a lad where you went down to the local parks and kicked a ball around until it got dark.

"That's where I learned most of my skills but parents aren't happy to let their kids play out on the street or park any more."

Brooking also said that football faces a difficult task in convincing government and others that it needs money.

The former England international said: "The FA puts 15m a year into the Football Trust, but it's a myth that football is awash with money.

"People look at Premiership players earning fortunes and the size and financial power of the top Premiership clubs.

"But 80% of clubs struggle to makes ends meet and they're certainly not awash with money."


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