It's a common issue every year for grassroots football across the country.
A downpour of rain over night and your weekend can be ruined in one moment when you receive the dreaded message.
'Game is off'.
It is a constant point of debate amongst supporters of grassroots football. What can be done to stop this annual period of postponed games due to waterlogged pitches and bad weather?
Some of this discussion turns to the state of facilities for the grassroots game. 3G pitches were recognised as the way forward, with the core issue being funding. While the Parklife scheme is being
rolled out across the country by Sport England and the FA, a lack of facilities at this current time has been considered a real issue. And hearing the prices that some of these football 'hubs' are going to charge to hire it anyway, I'm not sure it's going to solve much of the problem.
Just this weekend, a central venue league for under sevens which play all their games on a 3G astro had to call off their games anyway. We can have as many astro turf pitches as we want but if even they get ruined by the weather, we need another plan.
|A familiar sight|
Another idea has been to move the grassroots football season to the summer. Whilst this is a decent proposal there will be issues around holidays, the great summer tournaments we have in that time and importantly, sports such as cricket would really lose out.
More recent talk has centred around an alternative solution. Leagues have begun to pilot winter Futsal programmes.
This just seems to make so much more sense than the current, traditional set up. There are plenty of halls, such as in primary and secondary schools, with the space to play games in. The facilities would not be hard to come by with the right planning and are probably cheaper too. Futsal goals may be an issue, but again with the right preparation this can be organised in good time. It could be as simple as running through the start of December to the end of January, the times were traditionally rain stops play.
This is not an attempt to stop kids playing in the rain, as some might worry or claim the world is going mad. I love football in the rain, but it is this period where games are routinely called off due to the pitches being unplayable that we need to find a solution for. Additionally, the pitches that regularly take a hammering could get a much needed rest as well and be in better condition potentially by the time the football season starts up again.
From a player development perspective, this could be massively beneficial too. Whilst Futsal is a sport in its own right, there is no denying it could be a great tool for improving a player's technical ability, especially in the early ages. That combined with decision making, with less space and time on the court, can add to the holistic development of a player.
|We wouldn't quite need these facilities...|
It could be viewed from a multi-sport perspective too, with a variety of health and social benefits. This would offer something alternative, something fresher, to also give young players a chance to try something new that actually they may want to take up later down the line to stay physically active.
There would, I am sure, be other minor barriers. Such as knowledge of the rules of Futsal for players, coaches and importantly, referees. Or having to buy enough Futsal specific balls for the games.
Once again, these are problems that are simple enough to solve and while it may take some more of our time (and money) it may just be worth it.