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Grassroots teams stage boycott over rising costs

Save Grassroots Football campaign protests over a lack of investment in grassroots football

Footballers across the country refused to play last Sunday in protest at the rising costs facing amateur teams and the lack of investment in grassroots football from the professional game.

The focus of the protest was on Merseyside at the home of Woolton FC, where around 300 people braved the winter weather to support the Save Grassroots Football campaign, which calls on the Premier League to invest 7.5% of its broadcasting rights into the grassroots game.

The Premier League’s current broadcasting deal is worth £5.5bn from 2013-2016, but only £12m a year will be directly invested into grassroots football, via the Premier League and FA Facilities Fund – a £102m three-year grassroots investment administered by the Football Foundation.

At the same time, many grassroots teams across the country have seen their running costs soar as local councils hike up pitch hire costs following swinging public sector cuts.

Kenny Saunders felt that something had to be done, so he created the Save Grassoots Football campaign to call on the government to debate the issue, by calling for 100,000 signatures to an online petition and arranging protests like that on Sunday at venues from Merseyside to Hackney Marshes.

“The main aim is to get more investment from the Premier League but the protest is not just aimed at the Premier League,” Saunders told The Guardian newspaper.

“Local councils are increasing pitch fees across the country and kids, or their parents, can’t afford it. We want to raise awareness of the e-petition.”

Sunday’s protest was not without its irony. Having persauded a reported 95% of Merseyside teams to boycott matches at the weekend, local councils subsequently postponed all of the matches due to waterlogged pitches – an all-too familiar occurrence for grassroots teams across the country in the winter months.

“This isn’t just about Merseyside,” Saunders added. “The same thing is happening in Manchester, Newcastle and London. Walsall council have just increased their pitch fees by 300%.

“I think many councils are waiting for this e-petition to finish in February before they announce their own pitch fee rises but we won’t be going away.”

Read more from the grassroots football boycott on theguardian.com.

Take a look at some photos from the protest.

Sign the Save Grassroots Football e-petition.

COMMENTS

Tam Smith Edzell Ath says:

I agree with both comments we pay good money to use a bit of grass every week and sometimes the pitches are not marked, when I ask why they are not marked out , I get told there were marked on Thursday. We have an Amateur team which plays Saturday afternoons and two Youth teams that play Sunday afternoons , so if it rains on Thursday night or Friday the markings get washed away. The Amateur team needs the changing rooms we kick off at 2pm or if its a cup game 1:30pm we get told we can’t get into the changing rooms until 1:30pm.

February 9, 2014 at 18:25

John erwin says:

The progression of youth football since i played sixty years ago cannot be allowed to deteriate ..i watch every week.
For anything to get better there has to be a start.

February 9, 2014 at 12:22

Helen Bishop says:

I am a coach and club treasurer, for teams that play in the Walsall Junior Youth League. Pitch fees for Walsall are rising from about £300 to nearly £1600. There are many teams and clubs that won’t be able to afford to continue with this increase. We are a relatively small club with about 90 members, and have been going about 8 years. Our funds are very limited and everything we get in the club goes back to the kids. So it’s our members who will miss out.
Also Walsall council send someone round the park moving us off certain areas of the park, when we are training because they have to maintain the grass. He’s threatened us with a ban from the public park. It’s all disgraceful.
The Walsall league have devised a petition to hand in to the council to oppose the charges. Watch this space.!!!

February 1, 2014 at 09:13

Lisa Pritchard says:

I agree, I manage a womens football team! and the cost to the players and club is shocking! players carnt afford to play so drop off and teams are left with not enough players, so they fail to play games, then they get points deducted and fines which they carnt pay. As a manager I have to use my car and petrol to get to games and training, with no help, so it puts Managers off managing. There is no support for grass root football and it will keep getting worse

January 31, 2014 at 16:33

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