Close this search box.

Playzones: Safe, inclusive and accessible facilities that bring communities together

Playzones: Safe, inclusive and accessible facilities that bring communities together

“PlayZones are safe, inclusive and accessible outdoor facilities that bring communities together through recreational forms of football and a range of other sports.”

The above tagline for the PlayZones programme ‘does what it says on the tin’ – a Football Foundation initiative that in partnership with Sport England, the FA and the Premier League aims to deliver over 240 multi-sport facilities nationally.

PlayZones refers to multi-sport facilities but depending on where you grew up, we’re talking about MUGAs (multi-use games areas), cages or ball courts.

For those of us that are a little longer in the tooth, one might understandably say ‘I’ve seen programmes like this before, time and time again.’ Where PlayZones is different (read: an iterative improvement) is in the insistence on building a community around these facilities that predates and outlasts the building phase.  

This programme relies on a community-centred approach. In order to benefit from the programme, each London borough is supported to develop a consortium that becomes the steering group for the portfolio of facilities.

Why develop consortia?

No decisions are made without the consortium signing off on them. The intention is to ensure that any change is wholly focused around the needs and aspirations of people who live in the vicinity of these spaces and have the opportunity to benefit from them.

Success depends on relationship building and partnership working to develop a community of individuals, organisations and groups who have a deep understanding of the characteristics of the place and how a new or redeveloped multi-sport facility could be a positive thing.

Topics that consortia will consider will include:

  • Where should PlayZones investment be focused and why?
  • Who will benefit from this and how can they be involved in the planning, development and ongoing activation of the space?
  • How can we act in the interest of current and prospective users?
  • Who is missing from this group and how do we ensure that their voice is heard?

The last point is a crucial one. One of the key outcome measures for PlayZones is shifting the dial on tackling inactivity and inequalities at a local level. The ability to reach new, inactive participants is fundamental to the success of the programme. There is a wealth of research/insight that details why some groups do not use MUGAs. PlayZones hope to respond to this and create spaces that are indeed safe, inclusive and accessible for a broader range of the population. This is why consortia include and actively involve disabled people, younger people, older people and have a focus around understanding what women and girls want and need from a multi-sport facility.

So… an active, engaged consortium is integral to ensuring that the PlayZones programme delivers facilities that are fit for purpose and meeting the needs of local people.

However, this is only the beginning. By bringing these consortia together, the aim is to form locally-rooted coalitions of willing partners that will activate and animate these spaces for years to come. Professional sports club trusts, delivery organisations such as London Sports Trust and sports development charities such as StreetGames all bring capacity, experience and expertise to the table to ensure this. The ultimate goal is to create a community around these facilities that persists. Something that provides added value for communities by empowering local leadership.

What next?

Of course, success in achieving the above is yet to be evidenced but we’re building from firm foundations. As it says in the Football Foundation’s Community Engagement Toolkit. BIG CHANGE STARTS HERE.

Join us on Social Media: