Why save playing fields - by Alex Welsh

“If we don’t save playing fields people will die” was my exasperated response to someone once who kept questioning why they should support a charity like us. Sometimes it’s hard to get people to make the link between playing fields and improving lives.  As a kid who seemed to spend every waking hour on a local playing field I suppose I’m bound to say that.

Like most boys I dreamed of running out at Wembley one day. One week I would go to Roker Park and the next St James’s Park to see my idols play. I distinctly remember one sunny afternoon in May 1968 when Manchester City won the old first Division Championship at Newcastle United. I ran onto the pitch at the end of the game and whilst everyone headed for the tunnel to mob the players, I stood in the goal at the Gallowgate End, looked around and vowed that one day this would be me. That day I rushed home and went straight up to the field where I practised ten times harder.

Fast forward 40 odd years and that passion and love of sport has never left me. I’m still obsessed with goal mouths! In my roles as Chief Executive of the LPFF and part-time goalkeeping coach at Tottenham Hotspur Academy I am in the privileged position of seeing at first hand the joy that sport can bring and how it can be a force for good in maintaining good physical and mental health, shaping character, raising aspirations and bringing communities together. And this is something we want others to understand.

One in six of us will die before their time because they couldn’t be bothered to get out there, play sport and be physically active. In some respects you can’t blame them because we have made it too easy for them to stay indoors. Too many fields have been left to fall into serious disrepair and become unusable. They say that prevention is better than cure so if the government is going to address the obesity crisis it needs to do more to protect, improve and manage places where sport is played so that they are accessible, affordable and inviting.

The people who founded LPFF 125 years ago understood the wider value of sport and the need to overcome barriers to participation. That’s why they organised discounted rail travel to our first cricket pitches at Chingford and Wanstead Flats. They realised that if they were to get people into the sporting habit they had to make it as easy as possible for them to play.

Our mission has largely remained unchanged and the message that playing fields saves lives is just as relevant to-day as it was back in 1890.

Alex Welsh

Chief Executive

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