STARVED of cash, facilities and players – grassroots football could be slowly dying out.
Reports reveal how grassroots football is struggling with rundown pitches, unprofessional management, squandered talent and few chances for children and women to take part.
“Government cuts mean that many local football teams are no longer able to take part in grassroots football. Fees for basic facilities are climbing to the point where ordinary people are being priced out of our national sport. I will certainly sign the e-petition,” says John Stevenson, 26.
Television rights for football have been sold for £3 billion and the Premier League could bring in as much as £5 billion over the next three seasons. There is a worry that this cash investment will be wasted on ever-increasing wages for players rather than on grassroots football.
John Wilson, 27, manager of Blue Star F.C., has pledged to back the Save Grass Roots Football campaign by signing the online petition. He said: “Grassroots football is in trouble and the facilities in Newcastle are abysmal. We haven’t got the facilities for our clubs to progress, despite asking for ages.”
In recent years a dozen major weaknesses have been uncovered, including pitch shortages, ramshackle changing rooms, senior football out-muscling juniors for facilities, and huge divisions in football development.
The youth league is the biggest of its kind in Britain, with 15,000 people involved every week. Mr. Wilson added, “It’s a big mess, but I am gob smacked to say there isn’t any opportunities for kids. There are plenty of people willing to give up their time to help others, but the facilities are dire.”
The government has been asked to invest more money in sport facilities, for example mini soccer centres with 20 pitches per region. An online petition has been started to highlight the problem.
Mr Stevenson said that Blue Star is planning to create a youth football team in time for next season. It is hoped that it will “help youngsters improve their football skills and at same time get them off the streets and playing sport”.
In the past, local football clubs have given a lot to the communities they serve – government cuts could badly damage the community spirit often seen on a Sunday morning league game.
Local Councils in the UK have been asked to set out their own football vision, bringing community groups across the city together to increase and improve pitches, backing coaching and clubs through football training and administrative support to football volunteers.
Other ideas include better links between schools and clubs, a women’s league and cup competition and new city-wide coaching programs.
The e-petition can be found here.