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The ball is in play on the mini playing fields
Intensive use of the pitches by communities and schools
The objective was very simple: Children should play (more) football again.
More than four years have passed since the start of this project, but soon now it should be possible to say that the objective has been fulfilled, especially as construction of the last of the 1000 mini playing fields was completed in 2009.
A similar success story can be written about the mini playgrounds in the Rhineland region of Germany. Following the first meeting of the organisational group with representatives from all regional associations in Frankfurt in 2007, the Rhineland football association (FVR) was informed that it would be allocated a total of 38 mini playing fields including a reference pitch in Mendig, which would be completed first. Next step was selection of the locations – clubs and schools were able to submit requests to the association. The regions, on the other hand, were able to make recommendations whereby the locations needed to satisfy certain prerequisites such as, for example, existing cooperation work between the clubs and schools.
And then work was started: On May 13, 2008 the start event for the whole region took place in Mendig, with world champion Andreas Brehme as DFB ambassador announcing the locations of the new mini playing fields. This was not the only event in the Rhineland with prominent guests of honour: Andreas Brehme was also present at the opening in Koblenz and the then president of the DFB, Dr Theo Zwanziger took part in several opening events. Steffi Jones, president of the organising committee of the ladies football world championships 2011, together with the world championships ambassadors Renate Lingor and Sandra Minnert were also patrons of the new pitches. A regional inauguration event was also organised on action days in the following years in Mülheim-Kärlich, Niederneisen and Daun – all under the motto "Play ball".
"Play ball!": The children and youngsters put this motto into action – and not only after school in the afternoons or in the evenings. "An existing cooperation between clubs and schools is required at all locations so that the pitches are used in the morning for school sport and in the afternoons by the clubs," stated Lars Maylandt, full-time employee of the Rhineland football association, who was responsible for the DFB mini playing fields at that time. "In optimal cases this means that the pitches are always open and in use." In addition, there are also some locations where the pitches are used by adults, seniors or veteran teams. In the meantime, the Fritz Walter foundation have organised primary school tournaments on the pitches where along with football, many artistic activities were offered and implemented.
The mini playing fields are a real success although of course not everything goes right all the time: "Here and there minor problems have cropped up regarding use of the pitches – with regard to noise or vandalism for example. Taken in relation to the number of pitches built – more than 1000 – however, the number of problems is very limited," states Franz-Rudolf-Casel, project leader responsible with the Rhineland football association.
By the way: Financial advance payments for construction of the pitches were paid either by the community or the club involved. "Each mini playing field, with construction costs of around 25,000 Euro, was then transferred into ownership of the community / club and correspondingly, the community / club is then responsible for the care and maintenance work", explains Maylandt.
Already two and a half years ago, the Rhineland football association found a more than suitable project partner for construction of further mini playing fields in the shape of the USP Company. This relatively young enterprise took a decisive part in the DFB "1000 mini playing fields" project an provided a suitable perimeter system for the now more than 1000 pitches which are located throughout Germany and are used with great enthusiasm.
USP offers all clubs and communities – independent of whether they have already received a DFB mini playing field or not – an inexpensive and extremely flexible comprehensive package with perimeter boards, goals and synthetic turf. This system requires no foundations and therefore, no expensive advance payments. Furthermore, there is also the possibility of gaining a subsidy for realisation of a mini playing field or small sports pitch through the "Bolzplatzförderprogramm" (street soccer promotion programme) of the Rhineland-Pfalz region. Contact person with the Rhineland football association is Marcel Mohr. Phone (0049)(0)261/135185 or email: MarcelMohr@fv-rheinland.de.
Getting back to the origins of this action programme, "Children should be given an opportunity to play football. How often today signs can be seen forbidding football from being played in school playgrounds? Earlier we kicked a ball around in the playground," says Franz-Rudolf Casel. "With a mini playing field, the children have the possibility to play football again in the vicinity of the school."
The history of mini playing grounds
At the beginning of April 2007, the executive committee of the German football association decided to focus on sustainability of the world football championships with individual projects. The most comprehensive of these projects was subvention of the construction of 100 mini playing fields throughout Germany. The DFB released funds in the range of double-digit millions for this programme and this amount was additionally supplemented with funds from the UEFA HatTrick Programme. "As in earlier days, football outside of a club must be made available to communities again. Children and youngsters playing football must become a part of life in our cities and villages again," stated Dr Theo Zwanziger, president of the DFB at that time.
Definition of a mini playing field
The term "mini playing field" is defined by the UEFA and the German football association as a modern small football pitch surfaced with synthetic turf with rubber infill material and an elastic supporting layer, including perimeter boards and with integrated goals. The size of the pitch should be around 13 x 20 metres with additional surroundings and access areas.
Allocation of the mini playing fields throughout Germany
The 1000 pitches were allocated among the 21 regional football associations with the allocation being oriented towards the number of registered football teams per regional association. The final decisions about allocation of the single pitches within the regional associations were made by supervisory teams responsible throughout the country.
Applications were accepted from education authorities and schools of all kinds as well as sports clubs already cooperating with local schools. The application procedure, which started on August 1, 2007 and ran until November 15, 2007, was only available online at the DFB website www.dfb.de.
The goal of the DFB was to select the locations for the mini playing fields in such a way that they would be as evenly distributed as possible throughout the regional associations and ideally providing blanket coverage at local level.
Contributions of the DFB and the applicants
Within the framework of a project, the DFB financed all contributions to be made above the prepared plot of land. Guidelines to be followed for preparation of the land for a mini playing field were provided centrally by the DFB. Advance payments and building permits / approvals for land needed to be provided by the applicants themselves after having received confirmation of acceptance for a mini pitch and completed before start of construction unless agreed otherwise with the DFB.
All pitches were preferably construction at school sites. An important criterion for approval was that the pitches be accessible for as long a period as possible each day. Dr Zwanziger: "When making the decision for a location, regional distribution was taken into account whereby especially schools social focus points were able to be improved by the construction of a mini pitch. We would especially like to build the pitches in areas with a high number of immigrants. Close cooperation with regional associations is a matter of course."
Implementation of the project
First pilot pitches were construction in 2007, in cooperation with the den DFB regional associations while the actual start of construction was planned for spring of 2008. Of a total of 1000 mini playing fields, construction on 950 was completed during 2008 and the last pitch was opened in 2009.
From the World Championships 2006 to the World Championships 2011 – “1000 mini playing fields”
Since spring of 2008, the federal German football association (DFB) has installed 100 mini playing fields throughout the Republic of Germany from Kiel to Constance and from Berlin to Baden-Baden. With this project, which focusses on investment from the Football World Championships 2006, the DFB has created a unique infrastructure for children and youngsters. Every football region no has at least one mini playing field allowing the DFB to communicate better in future about important topics concerning the development of football, while directly incorporating people at grass-roots level.
Opening of the first mini playing field in the Rhineland Region of Germany: Andreas Brehme (left) as guest in Mendig
The mini playing field in Mendig
Some mini playing fields are also used by adults and not only be children and youngsters – as here in Alterkülz
The mini playing field in Alterkülz