Simon Says: Harrogate Town manager on improving grassroots football facilities

Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver
Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver

Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver writes an exclusive column for the Harrogate Advertiser Series each week. This week he discusses the need for more football facilities in England.

Danny Mills came to the CNG on Friday night and he gave everyone who attended a really interesting insight into what it was like to represent the country at the World Cup Finals in 2002. He then described some of the biggest games of his career and how wonderful it was playing against the best and most technically gifted players in the World such as Ronaldinho and Rivaldo.

He was frustrated that whilst England do produce good players they don’t produce hoards of players that ‘own’ the ball and he correctly pointed out that quality coaching has to start for children at 7 years of age. One of the biggest problems in this country is that we don’t have great training facilities and that youngsters don’t get the opportunity to receive a decent standard of coaching on an adequate surface. We don’t have a good climate and the hours of daylight for children are spent at school with now little time and money for schools to spend on coaching.

I would really like high class sports coaching to be permanently in place within the schools’ curriculums alongside the major subjects. More sessions on good training pitches supplied by qualified coaches would, you would like to think, improve the future outlook of our national teams in all sports. Impressive 3G artificial surfaces are few and far between and when there is chance of a funding body being able to part-fund the laying of a new 3G surface then there is a high demand for its usage. Community teams including junior set-ups, adult weekend teams,

Saturday and Sunday adult teams and 5-a-side teams all have to work together and make compromises in order for everyone to use the facility at one point in the week. The high demand isn’t going to change in the short term and therefore many sports teams and good junior set-ups struggle to find anywhere to train and develop youngsters. These youngsters are the future and if they aren’t training then they will never have the chance to fulfil their potential.

The cost of St.George’s Park was £120,000,000. There are eleven pitches outside and one indoor 3G. I’ve been down to take my A-Licence Final Assessment there and it is a high class facility, but other than for the England representative teams not many other teams get the opportunity to enjoy such great surroundings.

The cost of re-building Wembley was £798,000,000. Again it’s another great facility to show off to the rest of the world and maybe it massages a few egos within the hierarchy of the Football Association when representatives from other nations come visiting but I’m not sure it’s going to help with the on-going problem of a lack of facilities and good coaching. The cost of taking the Uefa A-licence in Germany is €530, in Spain it costs €1,200 but in our country it costs £5,820 and that explains why there are only around 2,000 holders of the A-Licence in England as opposed to over 12,700 in Spain and 5,500 in Germany.

Surely the combined money spent on St.George’s Park and Wembley could have been invested in both facilities for youngsters right across the country and also into affordable courses to educate more coaches. Also, there may have been more funding to go towards bringing in B and A-Licensed coaches into schools as part of school sports programme.

On Saturday Harrogate Town face Worcester at the CNG Stadium who have recently beaten Coventry in the FA Cup. This isn’t going to be an easy game but we are proud of our recent home form and the fans really created a fantastic atmosphere with the singing in the new Kop last week against Hyde. It really did drive the players on so we will be striving to put on another good performance on Saturday.