Friday 2 February 2001

Grassroots game to make its mark

Thirty six local clubs became the first recipients yesterday of the Football Association's new Charter Standard award, writes William Johnson

THIRTY six local clubs from six counties became the first recipients yesterday of the Football Association's new Charter Standard Award, a scheme in which 32 million is being invested this year.

The project, which will receive more substantial funding amounting to 180 million over the next three years, is aimed at the grassroots level of the game. Boys and girls under 16 will be encouraged to take their first steps to possible stardom by joining clubs who have earned the FA kite mark covering safety, quality and organisation.

Steve Parkin, the FA's director of the national game, explained: "The aim is to raise standards across the country, and not to exclude anybody. The target this year is to have 750 clubs holding the charter and then to work on the other 40,000 established clubs out there.

"We are looking for three particular criteria. We are seeking a certain standard of coaching, we want it carried out in a well-organised environment and, above all, we want to provide parents with what they regard as a safe place to send their kids."

Adam Crozier, the FA's chief executive, was due to front the launch at the impressive Lancashire FA headquarters in Leyland but yesterday's latest announcement regarding the future of Wembley kept him in London. However, in a prepared statement he said: "The FA is committed to raising the standard of grassroots football in England, to encouraging more people to play, to developing their skills and to getting them to enjoy the game in the right environment. Clubs who become Charter Standard will be taking part in a genuine revolution. Every club should be aiming to reach the standard."

Also due to give the launch a high profile was Harry Redknapp, the West Ham manager, who had planned to offer his views on football from a parental perspective alongside his son Jamie, the Liverpool and England midfielder.

Redknapp Snr was prevented from travelling by fog at Heathrow but also put his views down on paper for the benefit of the 100 or so representatives in attendance from Lancashire, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Kent, London and Dorset.

"I knew where to send my kids to get a proper football education but mums and dads aren't so lucky," said Redknapp. "That's why this scheme is such a good idea. For the first time, parents will know the best clubs in their locality to coach their children."

His son Jamie's presence proved the highlight of the day for the youngsters who were invited to be "guinea pigs" on the training ground. He spent nearly an hour passing on his skills and signing autographs which made those who had travelled from as far as Wimborne in Dorset feel the journey was worthwhile.

Redknapp, who has been absent from the Liverpool side for most of the last year through injury, presented the charters to the 36 clubs, along with the captain of the England women's football team, Mo Marley.

 

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