WARREN BARLOW'S INSIGHT INTO JUNIOR FOOTBALL: Our facilities need to continue to improve

The Bolton News: League chairman Warren Barlow League chairman Warren Barlow

THE spotlight has been on the grassroots game of late with local, regional and national discussion being had in relation to the state of our game and in particular the state of our facilities.

So how does the Bolton, Bury and District area fair in this discussion?

My opinion is not very well! Council facilities, in Bolton, Bury, Wigan, Manchester, Salford, Rochdale, Chorley and surrounding areas are in a very poor state.

There is little or no maintenance taking place, and many facilities now beyond short term repair or are rarely used when the weather starts to deteriorate.

A couple of examples include Hulton Lane playing fields and the grass pitches at Leverhulme Park.

Even some of the newer facilities such as New House Farm and Howe Bridge Sports Centre, the lack of maintenance or quality maintenance is already having a detrimental effect on the usage of these facilities and ultimately the game as a whole.

Only last week I was at Howe Bridge refereeing a game and I was saddened to see line markings wrongly or shabbily put down, heavy use areas such as centre spots, and goalmouths boggy or full of sand with not a blade of grass to be seen.

If this is allowed to continue for a few more years, the future of the game in our area is in trouble as we will not be able to hit the growth the FA and government state they want to see in the whole sport plan and FA Strategy as we simply won't have the facilities to put new teams on.

For me the answer is simple and that is for a co-ordinated approach by all parties to redress the balance and put the focus on prevention rather than cure.

The government is well versed on its media messages when big business is involved as can be seen by HS2 which has been heavily criticised as only benefitting London, but now the noises coming out of London are that this £50billion scheme must be speeded up so the North can benefit.

I do smile when I see the government propaganda machine kick into gear. But messages are powerful.

I would like to see that sort of investment being made to benefit the health and wellbeing of the people, and maybe would give a percentage of that investment so we can grow the game of football.

If that was to happen, then the huge media machine may then send out strong messages about the benefits of being involved in sport and how to get active with the focus heavily weighted towards prevention and reducing the burden on the health and social services, ensuring our next generation are being talked about with positive messages.

One can only dream.

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