Earlier this month, The FA launched a new identity connecting the grassroots game to England’s elite: England Football. We spoke to Georgina Lewis, Head of Marketing to find out what it really means for grassroots players, coaches and volunteers.
What is England Football and what does it hope to achieve?
England Football is a new name and identity that represents, unites and promotes football participation in England. England Football is all about connecting the grassroots game with England’s elite and delivering a better football experience, both on and off the pitch.
We want to inspire people to get involved in the game, stay in the game and excel at whatever role they participate in – be that player, coach, referee or volunteer. At its core, we have created a dynamic and aspirational platform – EnglandFootball.com – that revolutionises how The FA delivers football in the digital age and creates more chances for people to play, coach and support, while better rewarding people’s passion for the game.
The England Football brand will be integrated across popular grassroots programmes – including McDonald’s SuperKicks, Snickers Just Play, and Weetabix Wildcats – as well as FA products like The Bootroom and BT Playmaker, plus club and league administrative tools such as Full-Time.
Whilst we will use the power of the England Teams to inspire grassroots participation, the Three Lions crest will continue to be worn by our representative England teams.
Why was now the right time to launch?
England Football has been a long-term project with the intention of launching ahead of UEFA EURO 2020. The number of active football fans increases significantly during major tournaments, so this period is the optimum time to get more people actively engaged with the game on a long-term basis.
With the Olympic Games to come in August, followed by the start of the new grassroots season and the UEFA Women’s EUROs in 2022, this is an unprecedented period of major football events that will help maximise the number of people that connect and engage with England Football. We hope this has a ripple effect that means more people will be participating at a grassroots level in the short, medium and long-term.
As we recover from the impact of Covid-19, we want football to be accessible to everyone and play a major role in getting the country active again. We strongly believe England Football will help us achieve that. We need to use this opportunity to get people back on the pitch as quickly as possible.
What impact will England Football have on the administration of the grassroots game and what role does The FA still play?
England Football is the starting point for a complete reimagining of what technology can do for the grassroots game. The Find Football tool will make it easier for players and parents to find playing opportunities nationwide, whilst giving clubs and activity providers a powerful tool for promotion. This will connect with the rest of the existing digital tools, including Whole Game System, the Matchday app and FA Events Platform. All of this will come together to create a fully integrated, simpler and more efficient user experience.
In addition to the new digital tools, The FA Charter Standard Programme is evolving to become England Football Accreditation and will continue to serve as the gold standard for clubs and leagues that positively improves people’s football experience in England. On top of that, England Football is fully supported by the County Football Associations as they continue to play a pivotal role in communicating, supporting and delivering participation programmes at a local level.
Can you explain the thinking behind the connection of the grassroots game to England’s elite teams?
England Football provides a platform to leverage the strength and popularity of England teams to and positively impact grassroots participation, both on and off the pitch. Data from recent major tournaments shows just how much our elite England teams can inspire a generation to play football and stay in football.
England players are heroes to many. They are the ones we are trying to emulate when we are playing the game. We are also very proud of how players such as Marcus Rashford, Lucy Bronze, Jordan Henderson and Steph Houghton have become influential beyond the game too – they have become true role models, regularly supporting powerful social causes. We want to harness this to drive a game and society that is welcoming to all.
Given England Football is now The FA’s umbrella for the grassroots game, how does this impact on the recently announced grassroots strategy?
There is no change to The FA’s commitment to promoting and protecting the grassroots game and our new four-year strategy and will invest over £180m into grassroots football to serve and lead the game during this period.
England Football will play a key part in helping to deliver the objectives set out in both the Grassroots plan and The FA’s wider [i]Time for Change[i] strategy announced late last year.
Increasing participation, equal opportunity and harnessing the power of digital make football more accessible and easier to administer, are fundamental to England Football and we are confident the new platform, which puts participants at the heart of everything we do, will help us reach these goals.
We saw many grassroots players and teams feature in the launch video – what was the thinking behind that?
We wanted the launch film to capture the essence of football in England, in all its forms and glory, and really show that link from the grassroots game to England’s elite. We worked with COPA90, who do a brilliant job producing fan-first content. Jointly, we wanted to depict the diversity and inclusivity of football the length and breadth of the country, while showcasing its significance and centrality to local communities.
That’s why we chose to feature England Internationals, including Azeem Amir, Demi Stokes, Harry Kane, Lucy Bronze and Marcus Rashford, alongside portraits of grassroots heroes nationwide – from the likes of Senrab FC, Victoria Park Vixens and Red Star Homerton – to showcase the true diversity and fabric of football in England.
No matter where you end up in the game – be it representing your country or playing in a Sunday League – we all start in the same place: the grassroots game.