Grassroots football in England suffered a crushing blow after the FA had £1.6 million of its public funding scrapped from its budgets.
David Bond of BBC Sport writes that Sport England says this reduction sends a clear message to the governing body that it needs to restructure its approach to domestic grassroots football after a sharp decline in people playing the sport.
Sport England is the body responsible for promoting sport in the UK and distributing public money to increase participation. It will be a disappointment to the FA and endorses the view that it is failing the country at the most basic level of the beautiful game.
Sport England's chief executive Jennie Price was blunt in her assessment of the situation. She said to the BBC:
I think this is a serious message to the FA. We've invested, over four years, £30m of public money in the FA so they have a real responsibility to spend it wisely and deliver results. Taking £1.6m away is a real sign they need to do something different and I think they will take it seriously.
But the FA General Secretary Alex Horne hit back at Sport England and defended the position of the governing body.
Sky Sports reports the senior member saying:
We at the FA spend the best part of £1m per week on supporting, developing and growing grassroots football. Naturally we're disappointed that Sport England have done this but we completely understand their performance per results drive.
We believe in what we're doing in terms of our programmes at every age group. We are trying to arrest the decline in numbers but it won't impact on grassroots football.
A local football group for Horwich also voiced its concern at the cuts, and took to Twitter to ask a pertinent question:
Sport England cuts FA funding by £1.6m You can't increase the number unless you improve pitches and facilities!! http://t.co/AYy2MyqhzW— Horwich Football (@FoHFGroup) March 27, 2014
The biggest indictment against the FA is the fact that as other European countries have improved their teams and coaching setups, England as a nation and competitive team have not moved forward in any tangible way.
The Spanish and French both undertook programmes in previous years to improve their domestic football, and both went on to European Championship and the World Cup successes. England's attempts at restructuring have not come to fruition, and have actually had a detrimental effect in terms of participation.
This potential success all begins at the grassroots, and the UK still appears to be confused as to how it develops this organic process.
The decline in player numbers at the most basic level shows how football has failed to hold on to its core participants, and lost children and adults to alternative sports or technology.
Sport England are right to flag this decline, but with the Football Association being a very wealthy and commercially driven organisation, the move will do little to kick-start any action for change.