The Football Foundation have launched new funds of more than GBP16 million to get grassroots football ready for kick-off as the Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed later this month.
The Football Foundation statement said: “At a critical and exciting moment for football’s 12 million grassroots players, Clubs will be able to access funding for everything from creating a safer environment and getting grass pitches match-fit to goalposts or portable floodlights to welcome players back no matter the time of day.
“One of the three funds is being specifically targeted at those whose participation was most badly affected by the health crisis. Prior to the second national lockdown, disability team affiliations were down by 29% when compared against the same time last season; there were also steep declines in participation among walking footballers and players in the country’s most deprived areas.
“The “Return to Football Fund” delivered by the Football Foundation in partnership with the FA, and made possible with Sport England funding from the National Lottery, will target GBP2.1m at supporting people in low participation groups to start playing again. It will also fund initiatives aimed at bringing new players into the game and cover the cost of adapting to COVID-19 rules.
“Today, the Football Foundation is urging community football to clubs to come forward and apply for the three funds to make sure that football hits the ground running at the end of March.”
Three new funds for one big kick-off:
Return to Football Fund – GBP2.1m targeted to support clubs in the highest areas of deprivation in England, disability football and groups underrepresented in football, including women and girls, to support the return to football or activities aimed at bringing new players to the game. The Foundation has identified the groups most affected by the lockdown, where participation in football has decreased the most, and will seek to target funding towards them.
Grass Pitch Maintenance Fund – A GBP14m fund opening on 15 March will provide six-year tapered grants to improve the quality of grass pitches. Thousands of football matches are cancelled every year because of problems with grass pitches and these grants form a key part of the Foundation’s overall Grass Pitch Programme which hopes to improve at least 5000 pitches by June 2024.
Small Grants – A fund to help clubs pay for essential equipment and machinery they need to start playing again. Clubs can apply for up to GBP25k to refurbish their changing rooms, pay for grass pitch drainage, new goalposts, pitch maintenance equipment and portable floodlights.
Premier League Chief Executive, Richard Masters said: “There is huge excitement across the country ahead of the return of grassroots football at the end of the month. The game provides so many benefits for people of all ages and brings communities together which is now more vital than ever.
“The launch of these three funds will provide targeted support for clubs across the country with a range of grants designed to ensure a safe return of the grassroots game.”
FA Chief Executive, Mark Bullingham added: “We are so looking forward to the safe return of grassroots football from 29th March and will do all we can to support clubs up and down the country get back to normal after what has been an unprecedented year of challenges.
“Grassroots football has a hugely positive impact by bringing communities together and improving the health of the nation. These new funds will provide crucial financial support to clubs and leagues, helping them to get the game we love up and running again.”