UEFA Grow’s SRO on football estimated to be EUR 39.4 billion
UEFA has released the estimates of its UEFA Grow’s social return on investment model. the model puts a precise figure on football’s wider economic, health and social impact.
Football has, without a doubt, been shown to have a hugely positive impact on wider society. It is believed that Europe has about 17.3 million registered football players and that there are 548.1 million that have watched the game. It is believed that Europe has 21,000 full-size 72,000 small-sized football pitches.
In 2015, UEFA launched its UEFA Grow to offer additional support to the national associations going beyond the existing assistance of UEFA’s HatTrick programme.
To date, the model shows that 8.6 million registered amateur players across 25 European countries have generated a cumulative €39.4bn annually in direct and in-kind savings across:
1. Economy: €10.8bn through club membership fees, equipment, merchandise, travel, food & beverages and investment in infrastructure.
2. Society: €12.3bn in-kind savings through the positive social impact of football on communities. With its emphasis on teamwork, discipline and equal access for everyone, regardless of ability, race or gender, football strengthens and educates local communities. This, in turn, increases earning potential by creating volunteer / employment opportunities as well as reducing crime rates.
3. Health: €16.3bn in healthcare savings due to football’s role in reducing the risk of conditions, such as Type II diabetes and heart disease, and improving mental health and well-being.
How does UEFA calculate these figures?
Designed with the support of nine European universities, the model draws on football participation data from 25 UEFA countries as well as more than 100 peer-reviewed research papers across different disciplines, such as health, education, employment, sociology and sport. The European Union, Council of Europe, the World Health Organization and the United Nations have all verified the validity of the approach.
National associations in each of the following 25 countries have used the model to calculate the social return on investment of amateur football: Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, England, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Scotland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden.
In the first week of December 2020, three of these associations released new studies measuring amateur football’s contribution to the national economy: Albania (€45m), Estonia (€90m) and Germany (€13.9bn).
At local level?
The social return on investment club calculator allows associations to measure the economic, social and health benefits of amateur football on local communities. For example: through spending on football kits in local shops; investment in football facilities (training equipment, pitches etc.); the in-kind contribution of volunteer coaches to physical education.
In Scotland, the Aberdeen Community Trust leveraged the Scottish Football Association’s (SFA) social return on investment report to lobby local authorities to support grassroots football initiatives. The result: a GBP 250,000 yearly grant for the PeterDeen FraserDeen PortyDeen City Academy that provided a critical financial lifeline during football’s 2020 temporary shutdown.
“Evidencing your work in this way is a crucial part of building trust with key partners, and it has led to longer-term funded projects. Without this, we would have faced difficult decisions around our projects and people during the global pandemic,” said Steven Sweeney, chief operating officer at Aberdeen FC Community Trust. “The 1:10 return is something tangible which has also given the private sector comfort in knowing that their investment is achieving social outcomes.”
At present more than one third (35%) of UEFA member associations currently receive no government support for the development of grassroots football. Instead these countries tend to place greater emphasis on investing in elite-level football, at the expense of increasing overall participation rates.
Eastern Europe, for example, has on average one registered football club for every 44,000 inhabitants; in western Europe, the equivalent ratio is one club per 6,500 people. Yet countries with the highest number of amateur clubs per capita offer a richer reservoir of playing talent, helping both domestic and national teams to perform more consistently at the highest level.
There is growing statistical evidence that the European football community recognises the long-term return in investment from amateur football. UEFA estimates that for every €1 of EURO revenue invested in football development through its HatTrick funding programme, national associations, governments and local authorities and clubs have contributed an additional €3.63.
By applying the UEFA model, the Polish Football Federation (PZPN) successfully secured €10m annually from the national government to invest in a regional development strategy for grassroots football.
During recent national lockdowns, the Italian Football Association (FIGC) used social return on investment data to underline the important contribution that grassroots football makes to local economies and communities.
The Scottish Football Association (SFA) points to its social return on investment report as a key fact in developing stronger relationships with the devolved government’s ministers for education, communities, public finance and migration and travel. Each minister cites SFA data to underline football’s social impact in their respective sector.
The SFA report has helped its football development department secure both a three-year grant worth GBP 150,000 from the National Lottery Fund, as well as GBP 4m in funding support from the national agency of sport over the next four years.