Football-mad city would be perfect choice for funding

COMMENT: Bandstand event is a victim of its own success

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Portsmouth: Home of the Royal Navy and Portsmouth Football Club read the welcome signs.

There’s plenty more in our area to make us proud, of course, but few could argue football and the navy are synonymous with our great city.

At a time when Portsmouth and the armed forces have been the focal point for the 70th anniversary D-Day commemoration, is it fitting that all eyes could turn to our patch for the ‘beautiful game’, too.

Thanks to tireless work by Pompey in the Community, Portsmouth has made it on to the final shortlist of three to become the country’s first City of Football.

With 22 others bidding for the honour – including Southampton – entering the final stage with Nottingham and Manchester is an achievement in itself.

But the ultimate goal is to now develop a plan to encourage more people to take up football.

The city which is deemed by Sport England to have the best proposal will be awarded £1.6m of National Lottery funding to run a pilot programme that unites public, private and voluntary organisations to get more people – particularly those aged 14 to 25 – playing all forms of football.

Some could question why the most popular sport in this country needs any help at all, while others struggle for funding.

The reality, however, is that grassroots football participation has been on the decline in recent years, with figures revealing the number of over-16s playing the game in England falling from 2.2million in June 2012 to 1.8m in December 2013.

As obesity levels rise and parents face a growing battle to pull teenagers away from television screens and computers, any scheme to get people active should be encouraged.

This initiative will enable the winning city to be at the forefront of making that happen.

And we can think of no better place to show the rest of the country the many benefits of sport than Portsmouth – a city that eats, sleeps and breathes football.