Coronavirus Update: When will we see the return of Grassroots Football?
, 7 min reading time
, 7 min reading time
This article was originally written during the first lockdown. As we consider leaving lockdown 3, are the same restrictions on grassroot football going to apply again. We hear day after day from the Government that the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions are based on scientific advice. But if that’s the case, why is grassroots football still not properly up and running? We think they need to take a long hard look at themselves and where their priorities lie.
The Premier League continues to be streamed in millions of homes across the UK. Elite sportsmen playing with full contact, unable to maintain a two metre social distancing space and training in large groups. Yet children are only allowed to be coached in groups of six, maintaining a two-metre distance from others and not allowed to play competitively. Talk about double standards?
It seems this way to us.
We know that the Premier League returned purely for financial reasons. The damage it would cause if the top-flight season was scrapped completely would run into hundreds of millions. The reason Leagues One and Two have ended early is that clubs cannot afford to keep running if there is no financial gain – and playing in front of empty stadiums would mean no income at a level where TV money is at a minimum. We can see why some of these decisions have been made - but feel that no attention has been given to those leagues and players who could start playing in a safe way. Why are these teams being forgotten about?
If football can return at the top level, why are youngsters having to be satisfied with a gentle kickabout in the park?
The scientific facts are there for all to see. Children get infected with coronavirus at much lower rates than adults – extremely low rates – and if they do contract the disease are far less likely to pass it to another child than an adult is to another adult. We have all been encouraged to spend time outside from both a mental and physical point of view and constantly told that the virus is much less likely to spread in outdoor areas.
Schools have started to reopen where groups of 15-20 children will be in an
enclosed area for many hours, but still only six people can kick a ball around outside?
Of course we all have concerns and reservations about things returning to normal too quickly. And we are all horrified at the recent pictures of beaches, protests and mass gatherings where people have clearly been showing a blatant disregard for the measures put in place over the past three months. It is worrying, and we feel in many cases it is irresponsible. But we do also think the time it is taking to restore grassroots sport to a playable level is just too long.
Could grassroots leagues restart? We think this is a no brainer. If it is deemed safe for Premier League teams then of course they can. There’s no issue of having to play games behind closed doors - spectators can easily spread out along the touchlines and maintain safe distances. Refreshments could easily be served outside or spectators and players would bring their own. Financially it will help clubs that currently have no income with people unwilling to pay fees, memberships or match fees.
Physically it will get people playing competitive sport again and mentally give them a release from the every day stresses we are all feeling now more than ever. There’s a bigger issue too, because if children get out of the habit of playing sport, they find other things to do.
Of course safety is paramount and yes there are risks attached. But there are risks every time you leave the house. However there are directives to follow with hand washing, sanitising equipment and ensuring no unnecessary contact. Surely, if it’s OK for the Premier League, then why is it not OK for our youngsters. The science says it is, so why aren’t the Government?
As the economy came to a standstill during 2020, many manufacturers had to come to terms with reduced income. Most of the sports brands furloughed staff and cancelled orders with their Indian and Pakistani suppliers. For some online retailers, sales continued to be strong throughout 2020 though. These retailers were in a position to buy up most of the UK supplies.
The manufacturers were slow to react to this surprising demand and as they had furloughed all of the reps. These reps were not able to pick up on this information so it didn't get back to the buyers until too late. It is true 2021 has had a slow start with lockdown 3 in place. However, restrictions on grassroots football must be eased soon and football clubs will be looking to order new training footballs. All of our suppliers are saying demand will outstrip supply for the whole of 2021. In fact one manufacturer stated they were in survival mode. This is likley to mean cancelled orders will not be re-instated and is going to leave retailers fighting for the remaining stock, later in 2021.
Costs are also increasing as shipping companies try to meet growing demand. A 40' container used to cost around £3000 to ship from India to the UK. In early 2021 this has increased to £13,000. This cost is going to be passed on to retailers at some point and subsequently to the end user. So an increase in cost and a lack of supply means grasroots football should consider buying their footballs as soon as they can. As they are likely to be forced to play with last years footballs, if they don't react quickly.