England’s national football team faces decades more in the international wilderness unless a bigger slice of booming TV profits is invested back in the grassroots game, councils warn.

The Liberal Democrats passed a motion at their autumn conference in Glasgow calling for a five percent tithe on English and Scottish Premier League TV revenues to fund the strengthening of the game’s grass roots and lower leagues, and to ensure greater democracy and equality within the game.

The LGA, which speaks for 400 local authorities in England and Wales, says the current spending on developing the game at lower levels is pitiful compared with the vast profits accrued from TV money.

While the football industry thrives on soaring profits, councils have seen their budgets cut by more than 40 per cent since 2010 making it increasingly difficult for them to properly maintain local pitches and invest in grassroots football.

Latest figures show grassroots football participation is falling. The number of 16 year-olds and over playing football has gone down from 2.02 million to 1.9 million since 2005, when records began.

Football authorities say they provide a substantial share of the £230 million funding for 150 “football hubs” across 30 English towns and cities partly designed to produce future England internationals.

But that is roughly what top tier clubs have spent on agents’ fees in the past two seasons.

Cllr Chris White, Deputy Leader of the LGA Liberal Democrats, said:

“There is an ever-widening chasm between the grassroots game, which is being allowed to wither away by the football authorities with pitiful investment. The top clubs must do more.

“Our party have recognised this and called for 5% of all TV revenues to be used to strengthen the national game through investment in grassroots projects and the lower leagues.

“The FA and Premier League do run some good local initiatives but now councillors of all parties are calling for the top football clubs to dig further into their deep pockets.

“If funding was increased and administered by councils, the money could be spent more effectively to increase the number of youngsters playing football. Councils would be allowed to expand and build upon many of the excellent grassroots initiatives they are already running.”

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