The Suffolk football community is to benefit from a series of new initiatives and investments announced by The FA, writes Nick Garnham.

Bury Mercury: Ipswich Town players Luke Chambers, left, and Cole Skuse talk to young girls during an SSE Wildcats session at Portman Road. Picture: SUFFOLK FAIpswich Town players Luke Chambers, left, and Cole Skuse talk to young girls during an SSE Wildcats session at Portman Road. Picture: SUFFOLK FA (Image: Archant)

Earlier this month, The FA announced new plans for 2018 which will have a significant impact, both on the FA itself, and for all of English football.

These included a range of measures aimed at improving the culture of The FA and considerable new investment into every level of the game.

The announcement also included a range of substantial new strategic investments in the game from the 2018-19 season.

The FA have been able to increase their investment to £180m per year, which is up from £123m the previous year, representing a 38 per cent increase, due to increased revenue from the sale of the Emirates FA Cup and England broadcast deals, a new long-term partnership with Nike and the consequence of the corporate re-structure in 2015 which has enabled The FA to operate more efficiently.

Suffolk FA Chief Executive Richard Neal said: “This is fantastic news for grassroots football across the country, and our job at Suffolk Football Association is to ensure clubs, players, volunteers and partners across our county feel and see the benefits of such a significant investment.

“One area The FA will be directing additional funding is into facilities. We all know these are fundamental to the footballing experience, and we already have a number of fantastic facilities across the county, from Newmarket through Haverhill and Needham Market and all the way up to Lowestoft and (hopefully soon-to-be) Beccles, and lots of others in between.

“But more can be done and we’re aware it’s not all about 3G artificial pitches.

“Yes, these are fantastic and provide regular and varied opportunities to play for all, but spacious and warm changing facilities, inviting and adaptable clubhouses, and quality grass pitches, are all equally important as we have seen with recent installations at Felixstowe & Walton and Ransomes Sports.

“However, fantastic facilities are only one piece of a quality footballing experience jigsaw. Another key piece is the quality of coaching, especially at younger ages; every young player has the right to enjoy and learn their football in a safe and fun environment whilst also improving their confidence and capabilities.

“The FA will make funds available to clubs to develop their volunteers onto the coaching pathway and improve the standards of their mini-soccer and youth offering, so that every coach of mini-soccer and youth teams is at least qualified to Level 1 standard.

“When we say we want the best footballing experience for everyone, we mean everyone. Whilst increasing every year, the number of females playing our game remains low in comparison to men.

“By increasing investment in the female game, starting at school programmes and SSE Wildcats Centres for 5-11 year old girls and through to the female game and talent pathway to the Lionesses, The FA will provide even more opportunities for females to play, as well as officiate and coach.

“In Suffolk we’re already due to reap the benefits of this, with our four existing Wildcat Centres set to be joined by 16 new ones, and maybe even more than that!

“I’m sure there will be more exciting opportunities which emerge as a result of this increase in investment from The FA into grassroots football.

“Suffolk FA will be right here helping clubs, players, volunteers and the rest of the Suffolk footballing community to feel the benefits.”