Sunday, 15 March 2015

Grassroots Football In Crisis

Football in England has never had it so good. The money being thrown at the sport from TV rights holders and advertisers is beyond the realms of any football club chairman from as little as even 10 years ago. Rather than seeing the bubble burst, which many doomsday merchants predicted, the money flowing into the game continues to rise at an extraordinary rate.

All of this extra money flowing into the game should signal good news for every level of the game throughout the country. However, this does not seem to be the case. Grassroots football is struggling to survive and is facing bigger challenges to it's well-being than it has done in living memory. How can this be the case when the game has never been so well off financially?

The reasons that grassroots football is struggling are, in some ways, numerous and complex. The rise of the Premier League, and the dominance of media attention for clubs at the top of the game, has had negative consequences for local teams not at the pinnacle of the English game - consequences more dire the further down the football pyramid you look - as potential fans of local teams give their love, attention and money to Premier League teams from far away. As more fans drift away from local football to follow Premier League giants then so the media responds by giving even more attention to the Premier League and exacerbating the problem even further. 

The inequality of a footballing environment, where the attention and money is focused on the top of the game, resulted in grassroots football becoming more and more reliant on the goodwill and support of local councils to promote local sport and continue to provide suitable pitches and facilities on which to play. The drastic government cuts to council budgets have seen many councils begin to sacrifice this support for young people's health and well-being through sport, in favour of other essential services.

Grassroots football is the lifeblood of our game and it needs help. The money exists within the game to help but it is not reaching the places it is needed most.

In response to this problem, David Crausby MP set up an e-petition to call on the government to put in place measures to ensure that some of the money flooding into the top end of football was passed on to support grassroots football - and so ensure the long term survival of the game.

The petition states:

We call on the Government to ensure that grass roots football receives financial support from the Premier League.

Every child should have the chance to take part in organised sport, but poor quality pitches and ever increasing fees are driving people out of grass roots football.

Government cuts mean that many Local Authorities are no longer able to fund grass roots football; we need a bigger investment from the professional game. The Premier League is the focus of huge amounts of money in English Football, it is right for them to support football from the ground up to ensure its future.

Global broadcasting rights give the Premier League as much as £5bn over three seasons. The Government must work with the FA and Premier League to ensure that 7.5% of broadcasting rights is committed to grass roots football.

Visit any football forum and you will read ordinary football fans complaining about the mount of money focused at the top of the game and berating the fact that not enough trickles down to support clubs lower down the football pyramid.

Listen to any pub conversation about football and it wont be too long before you hear somebody stating the opinion that the greed of the top clubs is killing the game in this country.

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