I recently learned of the UK Grassroots football program supported by McDonald’s. It’s a program that supports the development of youth football all around the UK and features great participation by youth and football legends, such as Ian Rush and Sir Geoff Hurst MBE, alike. This program appears to bring the resources of intellectual and organizational capital to the equation for youth football development.
I would be curious to know if there are efforts to link this program or simply use this model in South Africa to go along with the construction of artificial pitches around South Africa. According to FIFA, they will be building 27 new pitches, 3 in each of the 9 provinces over the next three years. Three sites have already been earmarked by South Africa’s Local Organising Committee (LOC) for turf installation in 2009. They are Orange Farm in Gauteng; Thohoyandou in Limpopo; Siyabuswa in Mpumalanga; Moses Kotane Municipality in the North West; Upington in the Northern Cape; Phuthaditjaba in the Free State; Grassy Park in the Western Cape; Cacadu in the Eastern Cape; and Ixopo in KwaZulu-Natal.
Who’s paying for it? South Africa’s National Lottery announced in April 2009 that it will invest about R81-million (US$9-million) in building the 27 artificial football fields around the country. They hope that these fields will ensure the continuing development of the sport in South Africa long after event has concluded.
Now some might argue that those funds should be invested in more long-term economic or social development initiatives. I would likely be one of those individuals. But as long as the fields are being built, they might as well also come with a robust development and training component. Perhaps McDonald’s UK could bring their organizational and intellectual capital to the table to augment the development of these facilities.
It would be a shame if these fields became barren after they were built. Nobody wants unused fields (or stadiums for that matter) to be part of the historical legacy of the 2010 World Cup. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened, particularly if the organizational infrastructure to properly utilize the fields isn’t fully considered. Partnering these two ideas could certainly be a good win-win for both sides.