Last week we examined the relative merits of a Home & Away versus Central Venue format for English futsal and concluded that most sports in most places use a Home & Away format because it is the best way to generate local interest, community involvement, and club revenue.
However, we also noted the commonly voiced complaint within the futsal community that there are too few high-quality venues accessible to English futsal clubs. Our discussions with clubs reveal that although the reasons for this can differ across the country, the main barriers are:
- A lack of appropriate size halls in some parts of the country, so only relatively small courts can be marked out;
- A lack of futsal-related equipment at some venues (i.e. futsal goals, scoreboards, and floor markings);
- The refusal of some venues to allow ball sports such as futsal;
- Expense; and
- Lack of availability because of high demand for hall space from other activities.
In this article we outline LNFS England’s strategy to address the problem of futsal venue quality and availability and ask for your practical help in addressing this.
In consultation with our partners at the LNFS, who have over 32 years’ experience in helping clubs to develop top-class futsal venues in Spain, we have identified five phases to this strategy.
Phase 1: Gather existing venue data (May 2021)
During this Phase we will use our network of clubs, supporters, County FA colleagues, and others to gather data on potentially suitable existing futsal sports halls in England, whether owned privately or publicly, and irrespective of whether these venues are currently used for futsal.
Sport England’s Active Places database provides a good starting point. It identifies approximately 80 halls which could potentially accommodate a futsal court measuring at least 38 x 20 m, and over 250 halls which could potentially accommodate a futsal court measuring at least 33 x 17 m.
The aim of this Phase is to capture simple data on every English sports hall which could potentially accommodate a futsal court measuring between 33 – 42 m long x 17 – 25 m wide, with a runoff of at least 1 m (and preferably at least 2 m).
Phase 2: Identify priority venue locations (May-June 2021)
During this Phase we will rank and prioritise the halls identified in Phase 1 according to these main criteria:
- Court size;
- Spectator capacity;
- Availability of futsal-related markings and equipment;
- Location in relation to population centres; and
- Location in relation to existing futsal clubs.
The aim of this Phase is to produce a prioritised list of existing or potential futsal venues which might form an appropriate England-wide network of facilities, at least for the immediate future.
Phase 3: Identify and address any barriers to current venue access (July-August 2021)
During this Phase we will contact and interview the management teams of venues prioritised in Phase 2 to explore with them any barriers to futsal access. This will include discussion of:
- Whether management welcomes futsal in their venue;
- Futsal equipment availability at the venue;
- Cost; and
The aim of this Phase is to identify any physical, financial, or managerial barriers to venue use by futsal clubs. We will then develop, publish, and publicly consult with our Member Clubs on a costed plan to overcome as many of these barriers as possible so that we can begin to develop an English Futsal Facility Network.
Phase 4: Identify any new-build requirements (September 2021 on)
During this Phase we will identify those locations in England where new-build facilities appear to be necessary because there is either no suitable existing infrastructure, or barriers to futsal’s use of existing infrastructure cannot be overcome.
The aim of this Phase is to provide a compelling business and social case for any new-build futsal facilities and then to work with local partners to make this new-build happen.
Phase 5: Gold standard futsal arenas (2022 onwards)
Futsal arenas used by LNFS Primera División clubs in Spain provide a benchmark to which top English futsal clubs aspire.
During this Phase we will undertake a gap analysis with our LNFS colleagues in Spain to map out and plan the activities and timescales over which we move English futsal arena quality toward this international benchmark.
How can YOU help?
The English futsal community has many thousands of members, including players, coaches, and fans. We need your help during Phases 1 and 2 to gather reliable basic data on existing halls which will then help us prioritise venues for subsequent contact.
Please complete the contact form below if you are interested in helping with this project by visiting up to 10 potential venues in your local area.
We will provide you with a list of these venues and your task will be to confirm the hall size (plus the marked out or potential futsal court size), spectator capacity, and futsal equipment availability for each venue.
By working together, the English futsal community can collectively move towards solving the problem of venue quality and quantity so that our clubs and players are no longer constrained by poor facilities.