Wembley Tunnel - UEFA EURO 2020 Final

From Grassroots Football to the World's Biggest Stage

We reflect on the role of grassroots football in England’s historic UEFA EURO campaign

While the outcome of the tournament may not have been what we were hoping for, England’s historic UEFA EURO campaign provides the opportunity for us to reflect on the important role that grassroots football continues to play as a starting point for every player pathway.

On Sunday 11th July 2021, England played in their first major championship final in 55 years since winning the 1966 World Cup. Despite an agonising defeat on penalties to Italy, this marks an outstanding achievement for the team and the country as a whole. We now reflect on the importance of grassroots football as a foundation for all involved in football.

As shown on the graphic below, 85% (22 out of 26 players) of Gareth Southgate’s UEFA EURO 2020 squad started their football journeys at grassroots level with clubs affiliated to County FA’s.

England Football Players Grassroots Map

Mason Mount even started out in Hampshire with the Hampshire FA affiliated clubs Boarhunt Rovers FC and United Services Portsmouth FC. You can read more about his journey in The FA’s article ‘Growing Up: Mason Mount’ here.

Over 14 million people participate in grassroots football every year, making football the most popular team sport in England for children and adults. Without grassroots as a foundation, our national sport would not have the provisions to be so popular. As a result, The FA has launched a new, 3-year strategy to support grassroots football and secure its future for generations to come. Entitled ‘Survive, Revive, Thrive’, the strategy commits over £180 million of investment for grassroots football over the next three-year period, with other highlights including equal access for female participation across schools and clubs, and 5,000 new pitches. You can find out more and download the full strategy here.

On top of the new strategy, The FA has unveiled England Football as the new name and visual identity to represent, unite, and promote football participation in England. England Football aims to create more chances for people to play, coach and support football and better connect the grassroots game with England’s National Teams. Central to England Football is a variety of new digital offerings (EnglandFootball.com, Find Football and My England Football) that make grassroots football more accessible for all. You can find out more about England Football in our article here, or by visiting https://www.EnglandFootball.com

These new initiatives demonstrate an important commitment to improve footballing opportunities for all. This is a huge advantage for our national teams when you consider the huge number of players that commence their careers as a grassroots player.

Discussing the importance of grassroots football to the England national team, England Manager, Gareth Southgate, said: “We always have to remember that every player starts within a grassroots club. Even if they go to an academy really early, they’ve played some football somewhere else before, whether that’s a school or club. With what’s happened to us all over the last 18 months there’s the additional reminder that club football and grassroots football isn’t just about developing elite players. The key is enjoyment, and exercise, and the involvement for kids from whatever background they are, whatever part of the country and whatever the facilities that might be available.”

Not only is grassroots football important as the starting block for player pathways, but even more so in supporting millions of people across the country in maintaining healthy and active lifestyles. Southgate continued, “We always think about creating international players, but grassroots football for me, really is all about that enjoyment, involvement and engagement of the next generation. When we’ve been without that, for the last 12 to 18 months I think everybody would recognise what a big hole that’s been and what a loss that’s been.”

Hampshire FA CEO, Neil Cassar, added: “Grassroots football has evolved greatly in recent years and shows no signs of slowing down. We are making really important progress towards a more inclusive and accessible game for all. In Hampshire, we’re seeing our participation numbers increase every year; with rapidly growing opportunities to play, coach, referee or volunteer within grassroots football.”

Neil Cassar continued, “Future generations of England players will first get involved in football because of the contributions that all of us are making at a grassroots level now. More importantly, the grassroots football community, that we all contribute to, is supporting the wellbeing and enjoyment of millions of children and adults playing football every week across the country. I thank everyone from across Hampshire’s grassroots football community for your continued efforts. While the EUROs result may not have been what we were hoping for, I hope you have enjoyed the success of our national team and you’re now able to use this to inspire the next generation.”

Another landmark moment, for both grassroots football and the England national teams, will come next year as England hosts UEFA Women’s EURO 2022. Promising to be a record-breaking tournament, this provides a great opportunity to benefit women’s and girls’ football at a grassroots level for years to come with a lasting legacy. With Southampton selected as a host city, we’re set to see a huge positive impact at a local, grassroots level. You can find out more in our ‘One Year to Go’ article here.