£550m investment in grass-roots football safe despite omission from Spending Review

Tom Morgan
·2-min read
A view over Hackney Marshes football pitches on September 30, 2012 in London, England. Hackney Marshes in east London - Getty Images
A view over Hackney Marshes football pitches on September 30, 2012 in London, England. Hackney Marshes in east London - Getty Images

A £550milion grass-roots cash injection ahead of a potential 2030 World Cup bid is safe despite ministers sparking alarm by omitting the pre-election pledge in the Spending Review.

Footballing bodies are yet to take receipt of a four-fold increase in investment, but fears the cash is in threat due to the pandemic were dismissed by Whitehall sources. The Football Association and Football Federation have instead been reassured the commitment is over a 10-year period so details will be outlined in the multi-year spending review next year.

Formal bidding process for the 2030 finals is set to begin in 2022, and demonstrating commitment to grass-roots spending is likely to be a key plank of a potential joint bid by Britain and Ireland.

After previously disastrous attempts to stage the tournament on English soil for the first time since 1966, hopes this time have been boosted after David Gill, England’s most senior figure in international football, agreed to remain as Uefa’s vice-president for another four years.

The host for the tournament will not be selected by Fifa until 2024 but before that there is likely to be a Uefa vote to decide on a European bid, with likely opposition to Britain and Ireland from a joint Spain-Portugal bid.

The Government's increased commitment to the grass-roots as part of that yet-to-be-confirmed bid comes after hundreds of millions were lost for the sector following the collapse of the Wembley sale by the FA.

In announcing the additional investment in December last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "If elected next week with a Conservative majority, I as Prime Minister will put my heart and soul behind the case for a UK and Ireland World Cup in 2030.

"I want this tournament to be about more than just football. I want it to transform lives with a legacy to match the 2012 Olympics." The pledge did not feature in the spending review set out by Chancellor Rishi Sunak last month as the measures set out were largely to help various sectors of society cope with the financial impact of the pandemic.

The Government investment was intended to improve grassroots provision in time as part of legacy for the 2030 finals and to ensure that every family in England would be, on average "15 minutes from a great local football pitch".