05th May 2021

THE RETURN TO A "NEW NORMAL" FOR GRASSROOTS FOOTBALL

With grassroots football fixtures having now restarted, the return to clubs is exciting for everyone involved. It’s not plain sailing for many clubs, however. Let’s have a look at the ‘new normal’ for grassroots clubs.

Not enough players or teams
More than three in 10 players are not returning, say their parents. This figure could continue to rise in the coming months, as only half of all parents have made their minds up about returning their children to their club - the figure in the north west stands at 27%.

Family finances getting in the way of play
The ‘new normal’ has become a financial struggle for too many families across the UK - so many have seen their incomes affected
by the pandemic.


74% of parents whose children play grassroots football have experienced a reduced income during the pandemic – here’s why:
 
   
24% have been furloughed without 100% pay
   
21% have at least one earner being self-employed and couldn’t work
   
14% of grassroots football parents have been made redundant
   
19% have seen a reduction in their income for other reasons

A concerning
56% of parents will struggle financially to enable their child to play grassroots football this year - so much so that one in five have not returned their child to the club, due to a lack of funds.

17% of families cannot afford equipment, such as kit and football boots, so their children have no choice but to stop playing.

Almost two in five parents will try to find a way to pay subs, to enable their child to play, despite not being able to afford it (
36%).
 

Striking a healthy balance
One way that many young people entertained themselves during the many weeks of lockdown was to while away the hours gaming online.
This has resulted in 49% of parents struggling to encourage their children to strike a healthy balance of playing football digitally and physically, with many preferring to play online, rather than getting out and playing on the pitch.

Online gaming taking precedence over playing physical football is more common amongst boys (
50%) than girls (45%), according to their parents.

Case Study - Paul stewart  /  Chairman
When I’m not working full time to earn a living, I’m the Chairman of Baguley Athletic FC. I joined the club as under 14s manager in 2004 and immediately found myself on a rescue mission.  I was given a team that had been disqualified from the county cup and finished bottom of their junior league. A team that only had four players turn up to training on my first day.

Today we have four teams with two more expected next season and over 100 members, all of which have really pulled together to ride the pandemic wave.  Our income is none existent and only last month did we have to scrape and scrounge in order to buy some new equipment.  We are rejecting friendlies due to lack of funds.
 
Despite our club being located in Manchester's largest district (Wythenshawe), our biggest employer, Manchester Airport faces uncertain prospects in the short to medium term.  Pandemic related challenges mean that a significant increase in job insecurity, unemployment, poverty and related social impacts is a likely scenario for many in the community over the next few years.  All of this will result in us losing memberships - however we will always welcome any one to our club, but it then becomes at our expense.  Also, we are finding fewer people are able to volunteer due to their change in employment situation.

These challenges mean we will face further financial losses as a club as well as potentially losing key members of the club from players and coaches, to committee members and volunteers.  The future is really bleak for grassroots football.
 
I am extremely lucky to have such a committed team behind me and players and parents who understand what we are trying to achieve and how we need to go about it.