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PlayZones allowing sport for all

Aimed at tackling inequalities in physical activity and providing access to sport by funding community-led spaces, Football Foundation PlayZones is a programme that provides unique small-sided multisport pitches thanks to funding from the Premier League, The FA and the Government. Here, we look at how the programme works and the impact for the communities involved

Certain groups across the UK have long experienced stubborn inequalities in access to sports facilities and therefore their activity levels. Financial constraints, as well as a lack of access to quality facilities and resources, make it challenging for many individuals to engage in physical activity, while others face barriers due to societal norms, cultural expectations, gender or disability. Ethically minority groups may also encounter cultural and language barriers, and discrimination, when trying to access facilities.

Football Foundation PlayZones is a capital investment programme from the Foundation, which is funded by the Premier League, The FA and the Government. The programme aims to provide small-sided, multi-sport facilities in some of the most inactive inner-city areas across England. Four priority groups are specifically targeted – lower socio-economic groups, women and girls, disabled people and those with long-term health conditions, and ethnically diverse communities.

Whilst football-led, PlayZones will host a variety of sports and be designed with and shaped by the communities using them. Investment and resources into communities will focus on those with the greatest need, in order to deliver new or refurbished outdoor mini pitches designed for football and other sports that will allow the priority groups to be more active.


How it works

The PlayZone Programme takes an innovative approach to tackling the greatest inequalities to becoming active. Rather than using a ‘one-size fits all’ process, community engagement is at the heart of the programme. Where each PlayZone is located, what sport it is used for and how it will be designed is shaped by the people who’ll use them.

Louise Wright, senior programme manager at the Football Foundation explains: ’Engaging with those people who face the greatest inequalities to getting active and ensuring their views are represented in the design of each PlayZone is so important, as we know a “build it and they will come” approach won’t work.

‘That’s why it’s so important for the projects to be developed by a group of local stakeholders, rather than a single organisation. The connections and knowledge of local communities that each project partner brings is vital to engaging the right people in the right way.’

A phased approach

The Football Foundation launched the PlayZones Programme in a phased approach starting in March 2022, when local stakeholders such as local authorities, County FAs, local grassroots sport organisations and other community stakeholders were invited to come together and identify the communities and places where a PlayZone would have the greatest impact. Led by Wright, a country-wide team at the Football Foundation works with these groups to develop and deliver PlayZones where they’re needed the most, and where they’ll have the greatest impact.

To date, there have been three phases of the programme and by 2025 the Football Foundation aims to have delivered over 240 PlayZones targeted at priority communities.

The Foundation has also created a Community Engagement Toolkit to help applicants through the process of gathering the views of local communities. This toolkit is based on the learned experience of over 20 years of delivering grassroots facilities improvements, and not only outlines why community engagement is important, but also provides practical advice on reaching a diverse range of people.

Wright continues: ‘The Football Foundation’s ultimate mission is to ensure everyone has a great place to play, regardless of gender, race, disability or place. The PlayZones Programme will have a significant role in getting closer to achieving that mission through engaging sections of society and parts of the country that have traditionally been less active than the national average.

‘The first PlayZone is already having an impact, as it’s being used for 10 hours a week by a local primary school which otherwise would have no PE facilities for its 600 students. There are lots more PlayZones on the way, including in inner-city areas like London and Birmingham, providing great places to play and will be home to even more fantastic stories.’


Visit for more information on the Foundation and view the plan for your local area


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The Football Foundation

The Football Foundation is the UK’s largest sports charity, channelling funding from the Premier League, The FA and the Government into transforming the landscape of grassroots sport in England. Its goal is to ensure everyone has a place to play regardless of gender, race, disability or place. Since its creation in 2000, the Foundation has invested more than £1 billion to improve grassroots facilities across the country – including 1,100 3G football turf pitches, 12,000 grass pitches and 1,400 changing rooms. This has attracted an additional £1.3 billion of partnership funding – totalling over £2 billion investment in grassroots football so far.


Pull-out quotes

‘The PlayZones programme takes an innovative approach to tackling the greatest inequalities to becoming active. Rather than using a ‘one-size fits all’ process, community engagement is at the heart of the programme’

The Football Foundation’s ultimate mission is to ensure everyone has a great place to play, regardless of gender, race, disability or place’


EDGE delivers the first PlayZone in Derby

The first PlayZone in Normanton Park, Derby, has now opened thanks to a £180k grant from the Football Foundation. The project, which was also supported by an investment of £35k from Sporting Communities and £25k from Derby City Council, has delivered a refurbished 600sqm 2G sand-dressed AstroTurf, along with a smart-access booking system for recreational football, netball and cricket players.

To make sure these new facilities were designed in a way that worked for the needs and preferences of the local community, Sporting Communities gathered the views of more than 200 local residents representing a cross-section of the community, including people from a variety of ages and backgrounds. 

Based on the findings of this consultation, the pitch will host football, cricket, netball, touch rugby, quick-stick hockey and dodgeball. Across these sports and activities, the facility is expected to be used by more than 1,500 people within five years of opening.

The facility is the first Football Foundation PlayZone to open and the first to be delivered by property and construction consultancy EDGE, in collaboration with LK2 and Sports Labs.

In a major commission for its sports and leisure team, EDGE has been selected as the framework management consultant and the sole supplier for over 240 PlayZones to be delivered over the next three years under the programme. The company will provide employers’ agent services and work alongside supply chain partners.

Josh Barber, senior project manager, leisure and culture lead at EDGE, said: ‘To have been appointed on the Football Foundation’s PlayZones programme is a huge milestone for us and a particular source of pride for our leisure and culture sector, one of our key growth areas of the business.

‘As framework management consultants and sole suppliers over the next three years, we're really excited about the future of the PlayZones programme and seeing the 240 PlayZones becoming thriving social and recreational hubs for each of the local communities in question. 

‘The project as a whole will see our teams improving facilities, participation levels and access for grassroots players around the UK, and in order to achieve this EDGE is committed to bringing these sites to fruition as quickly as possible throughout the duration of the framework, with an efficient delivery model to ensure a smooth handover at every site. We're looking forward to working with supply chain partners to deliver this over the next three years, and hope to work in partnership with the Football Foundation for many years thereafter.’

Andy Newman, director at LK2, said: ‘Delivering these schemes will provide increased opportunity for sport and help transform communities, along with increasing our portfolio and profile within the Sport, Leisure, and Cultural sectors.’

The Football Foundation framework is one of seven national and 16 regional frameworks that EDGE is appointed to.

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