Saturday, 19 December 2015

It's A Start - But More Help Needed For Flood Affected Clubs

Football Grounds Destroyed By Flooding

The recent flooding caused by Storm Desmond (who thinks of these names?) obviously caused a great deal of damage and hardship. Nothing can compare to the distress and heartache of families seeing their homes flooded, and nobody would want to play down the fact that it is these families that should be the first ones we think of when addressing any issues created by the storm and flooding.

However, as well as the immediate problems to families caused by the flooding, a large number of football clubs (and other sports clubs), mainly from the lowest reaches of the game, have been badly affected by the floods. At a time when the national game is awash with money (no pun intended), then surely the football authorities should be doing all they can to support affected clubs, and also to support the grassroots of the game.

So far two separate funds have been set up to help clubs who have been hit by the floods.

Sport England has created a fund of up to £200,000, using National Lottery money, to help clubs of all sports affected by flooding. Clubs within Cumbria, Northumberland and Lancashire are being invited to apply for up to £5000 each to help with the costs of repairing pitches and facilities.

In addition, the Football authorities have also set up a £750,000 fund to help grassroots football clubs who have experienced problems from Storm Desmond. This fund also includes money from Sport England, along with added funding from the Football Association and the Premier League.

FA chief executive Martin Glenn said:

"Once the scale of the impact of the recent storms became clear, the FA and its funding partners came together to make funds available."

The football fund will be administered by six different county football associations in the north of England.

The football fund is aimed at helping grassroots football, so Football League Clubs, such as Carlisle United, will not be helped by the fund - despite having their ground completely swamped by the floods.

While it is a very welcome start to have this funding for the grassroots of the game, it surely would not be too much to ask those within the game who are enjoying the riches brought by TV money to help share the burden of protecting the lifeblood of football within the country.

Premier League clubs may not look to Football League or non-league teams as a source of players as much as they used to, with most transfer activity from the Premier League now aimed at foreign leagues and players, but to ignore it completely would be a big mistake. This season we have seen the success of Jamie Vardy in the Premier League, reminding all of us that those who take the effort to look will still find gems outside of England's top flight.

The problem stretches beyond organised football clubs. The damage caused to lower and non-league clubs cannot be ignored, but local parks and pitches have also been affected.

In days gone by it was always the responsisbility of local councils to maintain and repair these pitches. However, in these times of public cuts to essential services it is becoming harder and harder to look to cash strapped local councils to provide a bottomless pit of cash to look after our national game. The public will no longer accept that football deserves an influx of public money while watching Premier League teams to spend millions on players' wages in the richest league in the world.

Nobody is begrudging those at the top of the game the opportunity to do well in return for hard work and skill. It is the world we live in and we cannot turn back the clock. However, if we ignore the fact that tomorrow's millionaires are taking their first steps in developing their skills on local pitches then we will end up with a situation where home grown players are excluded from the millionaire's club.

It is time for the Premier League to invest properly in local facilities, especially when those facilities have been hit by the devastation of events like Storm Desmond!