Football Association cuts funding for Futsal

THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION has confirmed it will no longer fund the elite England Futsal teams and will “significantly reduce” funding for the grassroots sport from this season onwards.

This means the scrapping of the men's senior, Under-19 and U23 teams and the end of the plan to set up a senior women's team.

In a statement, the FA said the decision had been made because of “unavoidable budget cuts associated with Covid-19” and that “we have to prioritise our core functions."

This involved “a duty to support our men’s and women’s senior teams in their efforts to win major tournaments.” The FA has said it is facing losses of £300m as a result of Covid.

However, where many will disagree is in this stated belief that Futsal - a five-a-side game played mainly indoors with a size four ball - can't help the senior teams in their efforts to win major tournaments.

There had been proposals from within the Football Association to move the grassroots game indoors in the winter, but these were rejected. And other major European countries are also investing heavily in the sport.

Germany recently announced the setting up of a 'Futsal-Bundesliga' from 2021/22, with the sport becoming an even more prominent part of development at the younger age groups.

Peter Frymuth, the DFB's Vice-President of Competitions and Football Development, said: "We want to establish ourselves as a huge team in this sport, so the new league will be an important basis for strengthening the quality of Futsal in Germany.”

Spain has announced €8m funding for Futsal, while the French Football Association is building a Futsal centre in Lyon that will train 20 of the country's best 16 to 18-year-olds in the sport.

The FA said: "Despite this decision, we recognise that Futsal still provides important alternative opportunities for youth and adults to participate through the National Futsal Series, National Futsal League, BUCS, AoC and local Futsal leagues.

"Futsal also continues to be a game for developing football players and improving young players' footballing abilities. As part of this, the FA Pokémon Youth Cup will continue to be an opportunity for us to help younger players develop their football skills.

"Additionally, grassroots coaches will still be able to access learning opportunities to support their understanding of Futsal and enable them to progress into Uefa Futsal courses if they choose.

"The FA and its relevant committee are currently reviewing the current ‘Fast Forward with Futsal’ strategy, along with the future governance model in light of the significant reduction in funding.

"We also recognise the England Futsal team may progress further in Futsal Euro 2022 and we will provide a further update on this in due course, if required."

Michael Skubala has been England men’s Head Coach and Elite Performance Manager since January 2017. TGG understands he will remain in post up to the Euro 2022 qualifier against Macedonia at the start of November, but his future after that is unclear.

In September 2018, the FA published the ‘Fast Forward with Futsal’ strategy, a six-year plan that Skubala had masterminded. The aim was to make Futsal England's 'indoor game of choice'.

Skubala said: “Even though the FA has been 'doing Futsal' since 2003, there’s never been a plan in place so this is a landmark moment for the game."

At the same time, Sue Campbell, the FA’s director of women’s football, described Futsal as a “key part in our strategy to grow the women’s and girls’ game” and the sport was accepted as one of the FA’s core pillars in the National Game Strategy.

Fast Forward with Futsal also pledged to create a women’s team for the Uefa Women’s 2021 European Championship.

Defender Max Kilman, who recently signed a contract extension at Wolves until the summer of 2022, played 25 games for the England men's Futsal squad.

In an interview with The Guardian in January 2019, he said: “Futsal definitely helped my football, especially when I was 15 or 16. It makes you smarter, more aware and quicker.”

Pete Sturgess, the FA’s technical lead for the foundation phase, was England men’s Futsal manager before Skubala and is also a big exponent of the sport.

In an interview with TGG in 2017 he said: "The variety now (in the foundation phase) is huge and I think it’s a really vibrant development environment.”

Earlier this month we revealed that FA Technical Director Les Reed had taken the decision to scrap the system of specialist coaches, which had been introduced by Reed's successor Dan Ashworth and former Head of Coaching Matt Crocker.

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