Scottish football receives infrastructure grant for grassroots clubs

Grassroots clubs in Scotland can look to a brighter future thanks to £6 million ($11.62 million AUD) from the UK Government to develop 40 infrastructure projects across the country.

In particular, funding will assist the delivery of 20 3G artificial pitches to various clubs around the country, whilst further facilities planned for construction include changerooms, clubhouses, and floodlights.

Scottish football has a unique battle with the elements owing to its location in the North of Europe. Not even a winter break protects professional and semi-professional clubs from extreme weather, which often results in match postponements for frozen, waterlogged, or snow-covered pitches.

Though many experts debate the existence of 3G artificial pitches at professional level, there is very little debate against their importance to grassroots clubs, where artificial surfaces are indispensable to their operations.

Furthermore, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) has evolved its project delivery to increase participation in football for women and people with disability.

Poignantly, UK Government Minister for Scotland, Malcolm Offord, discussed the grant at Glasgow Girls and Women FC – a football club that has typified efforts to build inclusivity and participation in the Scottish game.

The club boasts six youth sides from under-eights to under-18s and a senior women’s team who play in the 2nd league of the Scottish Women’s Premier League. They will be one of several clubs to benefit, with development of a new, state-of-the-art pitch.

Offord linked the recent success of Scotland’s national teams to its continuing investment in grassroots football.

“The achievements of Scotland’s men’s and women’s football teams are in no small part down to the dedication of those at grassroots level. Providing high-quality facilities the length and breadth of Scotland that are accessible to all is vital,” he said via media release.

“These 40 projects will nurture the talent of the future, encouraging everyone in the community to have fun, be active and embrace all the benefits that brings for physical and mental health.”

The SFA’s Grassroots Pitch & Facilities Fund has already delivered significant projects to lower socio-economic areas of Scotland. UK Government Sports Minister, Stuart Andrew, believes the grant is symbolic of these efforts to promote physical activity in Scotland.

“Sport and physical activity is vital to our mental health and wellbeing, and each year thousands of people make a New Year’s resolution to exercise more,” Andrew added via press release.

“We know that one of the major barriers in getting active is access to high-quality sports facilities, which is why we are delivering 40 new projects in Scotland.”

Finally, SFA President Mike Mulraney highlighted his organisation’s success in delivering its vision.

“One of the priorities for the Scottish FA is ensuring that local communities across the nation have access to facilities, so it is wonderful to see the UK Government’s commitment to investing in our national game through the Scottish FA’s Grassroots Pitch & Facilities Fund,” Mulraney said via press release.

“It is vitally important for the nation that we continue to make our national game accessible to all and we are extremely grateful to the UK Government for helping us to do so through this investment.”

In 2024, the following projects are included in the round of investment:

  • Glasgow Girls FC – brand new artificial grass pitch.
  • East Kilbride United – brand new artificial grass pitch.
  • Blairgowrie and Rattray Community Football Trust – new changing pavilion.
  • Newtongrange Star Football and Social Club in Dalkeith – solar panels improvements.
  • Glasgow City Council – new floodlights at Knightswood Secondary School.

This grant represents an important moment for a football-loving nation like Scotland, and further demonstrates the value of building partnerships with government agencies to support football expansion.

FIFPRO Asia/Oceania report of AFC Champions League assesses the cost of competition for players and clubs

FIFPRO Asia/Oceania has published a report on key financial findings from the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) flagship club competition, the AFC Champions League (ACL).

The report, AFC Champions League Analysis Report: Counting the cost for players and clubs, was produced alongside sporting intelligence agency Twenty First Group (TFG).

This analysis is in response to the announcement of AFC Champions League Elite (ACLE) commencing in July this year, as revealed by the AFC in December 2022.

Based on TFG’s analysis, insights and feedback from participating players and clubs, the report addresses the feasibility of running ACLE with key factors including on-field quality and competitive balance, attendances and fan engagement, economics for clubs and players, travel and workload, competition design, and football development outcomes.

The research undertaken focusses on the value of introducing ACLE, based on the current operations of the ACL.

“This report analyses the merits and drawbacks of the current AFC Champions League based on various data and the results indicate that the merits do not outweigh the drawbacks for most players and clubs, making it an unsustainable system,” FIFPRO Asia/Oceania Chair Takuya Yamazaki outlines in the report.

“However, this does not mean that the future of football in Asia is bleak. On the contrary, we believe that this economically significant region can lead a discussion for truly sustainable competition formats.”

The report is the most comprehensive public analysis of the ACL and includes recommendations for what the AFC should be implementing.

“For players, the development of competitions is central to their employment conditions and future opportunities. As its primary workforce, the players are determined to play their role to shape a sustainable and innovation-driven future for the football sector in Asia,” Yamazaki added.

World Leagues Forum is involved in representing professional football leagues on a global level. General Secretary Jerome Perlemuter explained that collaboration between all stakeholders in the Asian region would help shape and deliver sustainable competitions.

“FIFPRO’s contribution to shaping the future of Asian continental competitions is most welcome,” Perlemuter said.

“Sustainable football development requires confederations, leagues and players to work together with a common objective to shape high potential continental competitions in a consistent global calendar. In this context, it is important to consider economic, geographical and cultural specificities. We look forward to continuing these discussions with FIFPRO and all stakeholders.”

To see the report in full, you can do so here.

Wellington Phoenix team up with Chinese outfit Tianjin Tiger

Wellington Phoenix have partnered with Chinese Super League team Tianjin Tiger to boost football growth in both nations.

As part of the Wellington Phoenix Tianjin Tiger Sister City Friendship, the clubs have agreed to hold an annual encounter between their men’s first teams.

The inaugural Wellington Phoenix F.C. vs. Tianjin Tiger F.C. Sister City Shield match is set to take place in Tianjin this September, with the second in Wellington next year.

The strategic collaboration was formed after Phoenix general manager David Dome visited Tianjin in September as part of a business delegation headed by Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau.

The club hosted a delegation from Tianjin, and the two sides signed the Memorandum of Understanding at the Mayor’s office.

Phoenix general manager David Dome was thrilled with the partnership going through.

“The mayoral delegation to China last year was invaluable and I’m thrilled about this partnership with Tianjin Jinmen Tiger, which will be of benefit to the club on multiple levels,” he said via press release.

“Not only will the men get to play a Chinese Super League side as part of their A-League pre-season each year, but the academy will soon benefit from an influx of footballers from Tianjin.

“We’re looking to grow our academy to have an international component and Tianjin Jinmen have committed to sending some young players to Wellington to attend training camps in July and we’re discussing the possibility of their juniors being part of a new international academy annual programme.

“International students are essential for the secondary and tertiary education sector in Wellington and we are evaluating how an elite international academy focused on football can be part of New Zealand’s international education offering.”

Wellington mayor Tory Whanau added that the city is excited about the opportunity. 

“I’d like to congratulate David Dome and the wider team for the work they’ve done on this MoU,” he stated via press release.

“I’m beyond stoked that the delegation last September has resulted in this MoU between the Wellington Phoenix and Tianjin Jinmen Tiger. 

“The development opportunities for both the clubs will be invaluable to not only football but also our cities.”

The Phoenix are enjoying a successful A-league campaign where they currently sit top of the table 18 games into the season.

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