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The FA & Mars help nation to Just Play

The FA and MARS have launched a brand new nationwide initiative that is aiming to get adults in England playing regular football.

The FA MARS Just Play programme is a partnership between MARS, the UK’s best selling chocolate bar, and The FA, that aims to arrest the decline in adult football. The partnership is aiming to get 150,000 new participants playing the game for at least 30 minutes a week by September 2013, and deliver a total of 3.9m hours of extra football played each year throughout England.

This news is the latest milestone in MARS’ ongoing investment in football, having spent £48m on the promotion of the sport since the 2006 Believe campaign. MARS’ work within the national game is part of a wider commitment to get the nation active through playing football. The programme is part of The FA’s National Game Strategy, a £200 million pound investment into grassroots football.

According to Sport England’s research, the number of people playing regular grassroots adult football in England is declining due to a lack of facilities, increased apathy, inflexible football options and logistical difficulties that hamper entering the game.

The programme is designed to inspire adults to play regular, accessible football in any form, no matter what their level of experience and ability is. The new initiative will help The FA and Mars tackle the challenges that face adults head on, by delivering solutions to the many playing barriers.

The FA and Mars are aiming to create over 100 FA MARS Just Play centres across England. Each centre will be staffed by FA MARS Just Play Coordinators, delivering casual football sessions that can benefit up to 50 participants at any one time.

As part of a wider legacy around the new scheme, MARS and The FA have committed to ensuring The FA MARS Just Play Coordinators and centres are sustainably managed and able to deliver 800 Just Play sessions run over the next 12 months. Over the course of the partnership, the number of new players across all forms of football, towards the 150,000 target, will be tracked and measured on a quarterly basis through Sport England’s Active People Survey.

The programme is part of MARS’ commitment to ensure that consumers have a clear, accessible and relevant route into sport and that there are a range of options available for them to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

MARS has already begun its campaign by creating an advertisement featuring England and Tottenham player Peter Crouch around rejuvenating a football facility in Carperby, Yorkshire that serves as an important centre for local sporting activity. This is part of the MARS commitment to reducing the barriers to adult participation in football.

The FA & Mars help nation to Just Play

Kelly Simmons, Head of The National Game at The FA, said: “The 150,000 figure represents adults whatever their level or ability playing some form of football. The FA MARS Just Play programme will help us tackle the issues that are currently affecting adult grassroots football. This programme builds on our work to encourage as many adults as possible to enjoy a wide range of footballing opportunities in their local communities. We believe its success will open up football to a whole new audience which might have been put off by barriers such as lack of facilities, time or people to play with.”

Fiona Dawson, President of Mars Chocolate UK, said: “MARS has a great heritage of working within football and since 2006 we have spent £48m on football related activities that aim to bring the fans closer to the national game.  Our partnership with The FA to create the FA MARS Just Play initiative marks an exciting time where we get to address some of the real issues that are impacting the state of the game.  

"We aim to make it easier for players of any standard to be able to get back into playing football.  Our commitment will be tracked and measured to ensure that we meet the objectives we have set together in partnership."

Crouch, MARS ambassador for the FA MARS Just Play programme, said: “It’s really important to encourage people to continue playing football and the FA MARS Just Play initiative will hopefully make it a lot easier for people to take part no matter what their ability or where they live.”