English futsal clubs have been left close to financial ruin following a u-turn by the Football Association, which had promised teams that a professional league and a TV deal would be in place next season.
The FA had previously acknowledged how futsal benefits football players’ technical ability and had pledged to invest heavily in the game to improve the quality of young footballers.
Following this promise clubs up and down the country, competing in the English Super League – the top division of English futsal – began setting themselves up as professional teams often at a cost of thousands of pounds.
But the FA failed to follow through with its pledge, instead deciding to put more money into grassroots and non-league football.
SHORTCHANGED? Futsal receives just 0.8% of The FA’s £65 million budget.
“THERE WAS NOT MUCH POINT IN CARRYING ON”
AL TINDALL, CARLISLE FUTSAL CHAIRMAN
One team that was particularly badly affected was Carlisle Futsal Club, one of the most northern and isolated teams in the country. They left the English Super League after realising their hard efforts would be unrewarded.
Carlisle Futsal chairman Al Tindall said: “We invested hours and hours of hard work and a hell of a lot of money. When that was taken away from us, there was not much point in carrying on.
FUTURE: Carlisle spent big on their academy for youngsters.
“If you look at the potential size of the market for futsal it is huge and I think that’s why it’s not being back properly by the FA – it’s a rival for football. Money drives everything, and I think that’s where futsal will suffer.”
However, Carlisle are not the only struggling club. FS Derby, Baku United, Middlesbrough and FC Enfield are just a handful of others who have faced huge obstacles throughout the current season.
WATCH: FS Derby Chairman Matt Hardy explains how he came close to ‘pulling the plug’.
Baku United, the current Super League champions, saw most of their professional players leave the club following a withdrawal of funding from their Azerbaijani investors.
FC Enfield have seen their sponsorship ‘dry up’, which will result in players and staff having to fund the club out of their own pocket. Middlesbrough have already resorted to asking the public for donations, setting up a funding page on their website.
The urgency for investment is all too clear when looking at suitable venues to host futsal. Whilst professional futsalling countries have futsal-ready facilities, English teams are forced to play in leisure centres and school halls.
LEYTON SCORE CENTRE: This leisure centre will be the only futsal venue in London next season, hosting 10 capital-based teams.
“I FELT LIKE I HAD OUTGROWN THE GAME HERE”
DOUG REED, ENGLAND INTERNATIONAL FUTSAL PLAYER
With a futsal TV deal looking less and less likely, some of England’s star players have been forced to move abroad in order to seek a living from the game.
England International player Doug Reed said: “I’ve been playing abroad professionally for four years and the reason I did that was because there wasn’t any opportunities to play futsal professionally in England and I felt like I had outgrown the game here.
“At the FA they’re not really sure where futsal fits in at the moment so they haven’t really created a strategy or a plan to grow the sport.”
LISTEN: Award-winning author Seth Burkett, who wrote ‘The Boy in Brazil’, explains the differences in futsal culture between Brazil and England.
At the time of writing, the FA has not commented on the situation.
Timeline of events: the ups and downs of English Futsal.
March 2014 – The FA sets out a two year plan for futsal teams in England with their expectations for professional clubs.
September 2014 – The English Futsal League is rebranded as the Super League with two competitive leagues for North and South clubs.
May 2015 – First season ends with positive feedback received.
August 2015 – Baku United, England’s Super League champions and only professional club at the time, downgrades to an amateur club following a withdrawal of funding, resulting in an exodus of star players.
August 2015 – The FA announce cutbacks with 100 staff being made redundant.
September 2015 – Carlisle Futsal Club quit Super League North.
October 2015 – Simon Walker resigns as The FA’s Head of Futsal
December 2015 – England Futsal Team Head Coach Pete Sturgess resigns
May 2016 – Second Super League season ends.
August 2016 – When the first season of televised Futsal was expected to begin…