“The Forgotten Game: Local governance & future challenges for ‘grass-roots’ football in England”

The Business of Sport – Seminar Series

Room G01 – Clore Management Centre, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1 7HX

Wednesday 17th January at 6pm
(For directions click here)

“The Forgotten Game: Local governance & future challenges for `grass-roots’ football in England”

Given by: Jim Lusted, Department of Sociology, University of Leicester


Football in Britain appears to be under ever-increasing investigation; from government, the mass media, fan organisations and academia. The overwhelming majority of this interest is in the professional game. There remains negligible coverage of the local ‘grass-roots’ form of the game. This is surprising, given the sustained popularity of the local game (The FA estimates that over 13 million people participate locally) and the significant role it plays in The Football Association’s day to day activities. There are also connections between the grass-roots game and professional football that, while often overlooked, continue to affect the latter in a number of important ways.

In short, very little appears to be known about local football in England; less still, about the governance and control of the local game. This presentation offers an introduction to some of the key issues found in local football governance today. It is informed by PhD research undertaken in collaboration with The FA, which is tracing the implementation of FA equity policy into the local game in England, focusing particularly on County Football Associations, the regional governing bodies. It confirms that these organisations are experiencing considerable change that is likely to have important implications for the future development of grass-roots football and its relationship with the professional game.

Jim Lusted discusses a number of tensions currently found within local football governance that highlight some of the complex struggles for power and control of the local game today, including:

  1. the relationship between the National FA and County FAs.
  2. the relationship between the governance and development sections within County FAs.
  3. the relationship between County FAs and their local membership.

It is argued that many of these tensions are the result of local football governance being able to escape aspects of wider social change that have impacted more directly on the professional game in the last 20 years. This, alongside a continuing reliance on core tenets of the traditional ‘amateur’ (and volunteer) ethos typified by British sport helps to explain why such structures are so resistant to change and are likely to be antagonistic towards many of The FA’s new initiatives to professionalise the grass-roots, particularly those that champion equity and social inclusion. In light of this, Jim concludes by discussing the possible implications of the Burns report for local football, following the FA Council’s initial acceptance of the report’s recommendations in October 2006.


  • Gruneau, R. (2006) ‘Amateurism’ as a Sociological Problem, Sport in Society 9(4): 559-582.
  • Long, J., Hylton, K., Dart, J. & Welch, M. (2000) Part of the Game? An Examination of Racism in Grass Roots Football, London, Kick It Out.
  • Nicholls, G. et al. (2005) Pressures on the UK Voluntary Sports Sector, Voluntas 16(1): 33-50.
  • Rt. Hon. Lord Burns. (2005) The FA Structural Review: Conclusions, London, The Football Association. Available Here.
  • Young, P. (1968) A History of British Football, London: Stanley Paul.


Jim Lusted is currently undertaking an ESRC funded PhD in collaboration with the Football Association at the Department of Sociology, University of Leicester. He can be contacted at:


For further details on this seminar series contact:

Sean Hamil

Department of Management
Birkbeck College
Malet Street

Tel: 020-7631 6763 or Email:

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