This report commissioned by Utilita assesses the impact of Covid-19 on grassroots football clubs across the UK. The report highlights the extent to which clubs have managed to weather the Covid-19 storm, the impact not being able to play has had on families and players, and what the ‘new normal’ looks like now that fixtures have restarted. It highlights how families benefit from grassroots football and explores the ways in which clubs can be supported by both official sport associations and their local communities.
Utilita commissioned a survey of 61 grassroots clubs secretaries between the 21st and the 29th August 2020. Another survey was commissioned by Utilita and conducted by OnePoll of 1000 parents of grassroots football players aged 5-16 between the 24th and 28th August 2020.
On average, footballing families become a part of their local grassroots clubs for around five years and, during this time, 42% of parents volunteer to help. Parents encourage their children to play due to physical and mental health benefits (63%), the social element (62%), the opportunity to learn transferable life skills (48%) and a community-centric past time (34%). The four-month closure had a big effect on young players, with 75% of players saying their child had really missed having the ability to play. Since the start of lockdown, club’s income has dropped by 46% on average and 10% of clubs say they will have no choice but to close. Despite the restart, more than 3 in 10 players are not returning, with 56% of parents struggling financially to enable their kids to play, and 49% of parents concerned about online gaming functioning as a replacement activity. Clubs are expecting the most support to come from the Football Association (57%) but local families have expressed a willingness to help, with 81% of those who are able offering to fundraise for the club.
The report does a great job in highlighting how important grassroots football clubs are to our local communities. It also paints a clear picture of the precarious situation many of these clubs are currently in due to the pandemic. The 10% of clubs who say they will have no choice but to close within the next 12 months is a particularly worrying statistic. The case studies show that local councils have not done enough to financially support these clubs, many of whom have had to rely on community fundraising and volunteering. This report is important reading for governing bodies and key stakeholders to ensure the voice of the grassroots community is heard. The social cost to the local community of losing these clubs should not be dismissed.