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Richards: ‘Councils failing grassroots football’

FOOTBALL Association Council member and former Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards believes local authorities are failing in their provision of grassroots football.

The collapse of the sale of Wembley stadium to Fulham owner Shahid Khan was welcomed by Richards, who believes the £600 million generated would have been wasted.

He also believes the rift between the FA Council and FA board of directors is widening as a result of the proposed sale, something which former FA chairman Greg Dyke blamed on council members “living in the past.”

“I am pleased it has not gone through because it belongs to the nation, it is like selling the BBC and Buckingham Palace. It is the heritage of football,” Richards told Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme.

Asked whether he thought it meant the sale was now off permanently, Richards added: “You can never say that, not with the board of directors, chairman and chief executive we have got. It could come up next week.”

On the loss of investment to the grassroots game, Richards said: “You need to look at grassroots football and what the (Football) foundation has done over the last number of years and realise they are already putting £65m a year into grassroots and the grassroots which are failing now belong to councils.

“It is councils that are failing, not football. Do we want to invest in council grounds that in five years time are going to want us to do it again?”

Dyke disagreed with Richards’s opinions on investment, but he accepted there was a split within the organisation.

“Local authorities cannot afford to maintain them and £600m is an awful lot of money,” he said.

“If you want to have a step-change change in grassroots facilities, you need the amount of money to be spent. Would the FA spend it wisely? I think yes.

“At the moment we are just going ahead with these facilities deteriorating further and it is bizarre that it is the old men of the FA Council who have stopped it.

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