Even the best have to start somewhere, and grassroots football has played a key role in the development of British football since the game began.
Unfortunately, with austerity measures and spending cuts, football in its most primitive form has seen a depleted budget alongside soaring costs. Here, we take a look at the ever deepening crisis that is threatening the foundations of the beautiful game.
Cuts, Cuts and More Cuts
The autumn budget, the spring budget, the winter budget, there seems to be a budget every month, and with each new red briefcase comes a new wave of bad news.
Unfortunately, the same can be said for football’s governing body, the FA. With so many clubs across the UK, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to spread the money equally, meaning that hundreds of small teams are left with either minimal or no funding altogether.
With such precious little money to go around, the responsibility of keeping their kids active falls at the feet of parents.
Mothers and fathers are having to cough up more and more in weekly and annual fees just to keep the clubs afloat.
The sad fact remains that football is dangerously close to becoming an exclusively middle class sport.
Ever Increasing Costs
Like any other sport football needs equipment, and the cost of essential kit has steadily grown year upon year, causing headaches for coaches and parents alike.
To begin with, the cost of hiring a pitch for game days has risen almost 1,000% in recent years with many seeing annual costs grow from £800 per season, to £10,000 over the last decade.
Naturally this has placed even more pressure on amateur clubs, especially those with youth teams, as they struggle to raise funds year upon year. While a few teams have found a solution to the issue, such as halving the costs of renting out pitches by using local parks to hold training sessions, and resorting to reserved fields for match days only, there’s little they can do to keep costs at a minimum.
These solutions are short term at best, as parks are often poorly maintained, and are often not fit for purpose with the constant use causing damage to the ground. And as we saw in the recent European Championships, poor quality can lead to potholes and injuries as players slip and get stuck in the poorly maintained pitch.
Although pitch rental prices are a headache, that’s not the only thing that clubs have to stress over.
Equipment, kit and referee costs are also denting the budget, with many clubs having to rely on the help of local businesses and volunteers to sponsor the teams in order to cover the costs.
What Can We Do?
Thankfully, the recent European Championships and Rio Olympics have drawn attention to the issues surrounding grassroots football.
Having been inspired by the efforts of the national team, particularly in Wales, more children have opted to join local amateur leagues in an attempt to emulate their heroes.
In response to this, and as resources are stretched to breaking point, the Football Association has announced a further £107 million in funding toward the development of local clubs, in the hope of supporting growing interest in the game.
New pilot schemes have also been announced, as Sheffield Football Club has opened the doors to its stadium, allowing a chance for amateur clubs to gain access to top quality equipment and coaching alike.
While the scheme is only in its opening phase, it’s already created a buzz in the local community with the FA openly admitting its hopes to continue the scheme across the country.
Such an exciting development would definitely benefit the small clubs situated in deprived areas, and relieve some of the pressures placed on coaches and parents to provide the best for the children.
There may be a long road ahead, but something that is certain, is that grassroots football is the foundation of the English Premier League, and without it, stars such as Wayne Rooney, Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale may never have become the world class players they are today.
With the 2018 World Cup on the horizon, let’s hope that such an incredible institution gets the help it needs to thrive.
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