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    What Is Grassroots Football by Stuart Grimshaw


    Kamy100

    At BRFCs we want to expand our writing pool to include people who can write about wider football issue, with that in mind we are delighted to welcome Stuart Grimshaw to our writing team, he will be focusing on Grassroots Football.

     

    Even before the gentlemen of Sheffield FC laid down the rules of soccer that we know today, there has been grassroots football. Whether it was Shrovetide football, kids in the street with jumpers for goalposts or one of the larger local clubs with a team or two for each age group, a committee and hundreds of volunteers. People have always gathered to kick, carry or throw a ball at a goal, and even though the opportunities to play are becoming fewer, it remains the most popular activity in many countries.

    "Football is for everyone and can be played anywhere and everywhere. Football is a school of life that is also fun. Let the kids be kids." No, not a Guardiola, Mourinho or even Allardyce quote, this irony-free statement comes from the fine, upstanding citizens of FIFA.

    Considering they say it can be played anywhere, their videos of techniques being demonstrated are all filmed on finely manicured grass, by kids in kits that don't have holes in and with footballs that haven't been chewed by that dog that invaded the pitch that time.

    Grassroots football has always been the poor relation to professional football, it's never basked in the warm glow of sponsorship, sugar daddies and TV money like its older brother Premier League which has more money than it knows what to do  with (Don't believe me? What about Andy Carroll to Liverpool for £35m ... Robinho to Man City for €42.5m?) it feels worse than ever. The closest a grass roots club gets to a sugar daddy is when one of the players dad's stumps up £300 from his building firm to buy a new kit.

    Austerity has councils under huge pressure to slash budgets; Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council's budget for Leisure, Culture & Young People was cut by £2m from 2015/16 to 16/7. They don't have funds to maintain pitches, even basic maintenance such as cutting the grass as often as is needed, or marking out the lines; never mind proper maintenance like renewing the grass over the summer or improving drainage so the pitches can be used more during the winter. It's not unusual to turn up to play with one of the crossbars, much like Rovers’ back four under Owen Coyle, hideously bent out of shape.

    Schools have long since sold off their pitches to cover short term gaps in funding, and those that are lucky to have a new 4G pitch as part of their redevelopment are hugely overpriced or hugely oversubscribed, sometimes both. There's no money to buy new land for pitches, there's no money to buy new equipment for the pitches, there's no money to pay for improvements to pitches.

    What little funding is available is so sparse that very often only 1 or 2 teams actually benefit. How many times have you seen your nephew's posting on Facebook or Twitter asking you to vote for their club to win part of some company's community fund? Like greasy Lords of the Manor handing out alms to the poor as if it absolves them of any blame for the fact poor people exist at all.

    I haven't even touched on the fact that kids don't (can’t...won’t?) play in the street any more, and any patch of grass worthy of the name, will have a "No Ball Games" sign planted in the middle.

    What are we to do when one end of the football spectrum has never had it so good and the other hand has never had it so bad?

    First we need to understand what grassroots football is and what it's for. It's not for finding the next £10m player, it's not Darwen FC or Padiham FC, non-league football is as far from grassroots as it is from the Premier League.

    Grassroots football is 15 kids kicking a ball in their local park, the game ends when the kid who owns the ball has to go home. It's clubs like Blackburn Eagles, Clitheroe Wolves, Lammack Juniors & Wilpshire Wanderers, Saturday and Sunday morning football for kids under 16. It's weekend football for your local pub team (if they even have one any more) or local village side. It's booking a 7-a-side pitch after work every week and playing against your friends. Each one of these different types of football faces its own pressure, but they all boil down to money and not enough of it making its way down the football ladder.

    The answer is clear. Professional football needs to support grassroots football. It's not a government problem, FIFA quite rightly says that football associations should be apolitical. Professional clubs need to do more than send an injured player, shuffling at the front of the class with his hands in his pockets like a naughty child and say that they contribute to their community.

    The community football they run often costs a fortune, their academies and development squads are often treated like profit centres charging a small fortune for players to go and get coaching, all the time softly cooing to parents about how their child might make it.

    Look at any British player in any team around the world, but especially playing for British clubs and they will have started out age 8 or 9 for a grassroots club, none of them went straight into an academy. I would say it's in their interests to support grass roots because that's where they get their players from.

    There's currently a petition urging the government to put pressure on the Premier League to honour its commitment to spend £1 billion of the 2016-19 TV revenues deal on grassroots facilities. Most of the money goes on "solidarity" payments to the lower leagues though.

    If little Jonny or Gemma plays any kind of grassroots sport, I urge you to sign the petition. https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/200094

    In my next article, I’ll run you through the life of a grass roots football coach.

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    It's not a government problem”

    But it is a government problem as you have identified in your article. It’s not the PL which is cutting central government grants or underfunding education, sports facilities etc. It’s the government that is responsible for the closure of and/or lack of facilities:

    “Austerity has councils under huge pressure to slash budgets; Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council's budget for Leisure, Culture & Young People was cut by £2m from 2015/16 to 16/17”

    Schools have long since sold off their pitches to cover short term gaps in funding,”

    As a youngster I had every opportunity to take part in sport. Those opportunities have dwindled away as successive governments have failed to provide the investment to maintain facilities in schools and local authorities. Sport in particular was not seen as important. 

    Now we might see PL support as a solution but we should not lose sight of the real issue and try to shift responsibility elsewhere. Ultimately if we want the facilities for grassroots sport of any type it has to come from our taxes, if it doesn’t it will become or remain elitist. 

    Edited by Paul
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    I have signed the petition and mine is number 15024 of the 100000 needed to enable a debate in parliament, get to it folks. If the premier league needs pressure to pay up on a promise then I think it’s worthwhile unless you just want the money to go into agents/players bank accounts. 

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    13 hours ago, Kamy100 said:

    At BRFCs we want to expand our writing pool to include people who can write about wider football issue, with that in mind we are delighted to welcome Stuart Grimshaw to our writing team, he will be focusing on Grassroots Football.

     

    Even before the gentlemen of Sheffield FC laid down the rules of soccer that we know today, there has been grassroots football. Whether it was Shrovetide football, kids in the street with jumpers for goalposts or one of the larger local clubs with a team or two for each age group, a committee and hundreds of volunteers. People have always gathered to kick, carry or throw a ball at a goal, and even though the opportunities to play are becoming fewer, it remains the most popular activity in many countries.

    "Football is for everyone and can be played anywhere and everywhere. Football is a school of life that is also fun. Let the kids be kids." No, not a Guardiola, Mourinho or even Allardyce quote, this irony-free statement comes from the fine, upstanding citizens of FIFA.

    Considering they say it can be played anywhere, their videos of techniques being demonstrated are all filmed on finely manicured grass, by kids in kits that don't have holes in and with footballs that haven't been chewed by that dog that invaded the pitch that time.

    Grassroots football has always been the poor relation to professional football, it's never basked in the warm glow of sponsorship, sugar daddies and TV money like its older brother Premier League which has more money than it knows what to do  with (Don't believe me? What about Andy Carroll to Liverpool for £35m ... Robinho to Man City for €42.5m?) it feels worse than ever. The closest a grass roots club gets to a sugar daddy is when one of the players dad's stumps up £300 from his building firm to buy a new kit.

    Austerity has councils under huge pressure to slash budgets; Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council's budget for Leisure, Culture & Young People was cut by £2m from 2015/16 to 16/7. They don't have funds to maintain pitches, even basic maintenance such as cutting the grass as often as is needed, or marking out the lines; never mind proper maintenance like renewing the grass over the summer or improving drainage so the pitches can be used more during the winter. It's not unusual to turn up to play with one of the crossbars, much like Rovers’ back four under Owen Coyle, hideously bent out of shape.

    Schools have long since sold off their pitches to cover short term gaps in funding, and those that are lucky to have a new 4G pitch as part of their redevelopment are hugely overpriced or hugely oversubscribed, sometimes both. There's no money to buy new land for pitches, there's no money to buy new equipment for the pitches, there's no money to pay for improvements to pitches.

    What little funding is available is so sparse that very often only 1 or 2 teams actually benefit. How many times have you seen your nephew's posting on Facebook or Twitter asking you to vote for their club to win part of some company's community fund? Like greasy Lords of the Manor handing out alms to the poor as if it absolves them of any blame for the fact poor people exist at all.

    I haven't even touched on the fact that kids don't (can’t...won’t?) play in the street any more, and any patch of grass worthy of the name, will have a "No Ball Games" sign planted in the middle.

    What are we to do when one end of the football spectrum has never had it so good and the other hand has never had it so bad?

    First we need to understand what grassroots football is and what it's for. It's not for finding the next £10m player, it's not Darwen FC or Padiham FC, non-league football is as far from grassroots as it is from the Premier League.

    Grassroots football is 15 kids kicking a ball in their local park, the game ends when the kid who owns the ball has to go home. It's clubs like Blackburn Eagles, Clitheroe Wolves, Lammack Juniors & Wilpshire Wanderers, Saturday and Sunday morning football for kids under 16. It's weekend football for your local pub team (if they even have one any more) or local village side. It's booking a 7-a-side pitch after work every week and playing against your friends. Each one of these different types of football faces its own pressure, but they all boil down to money and not enough of it making its way down the football ladder.

    The answer is clear. Professional football needs to support grassroots football. It's not a government problem, FIFA quite rightly says that football associations should be apolitical. Professional clubs need to do more than send an injured player, shuffling at the front of the class with his hands in his pockets like a naughty child and say that they contribute to their community.

    The community football they run often costs a fortune, their academies and development squads are often treated like profit centres charging a small fortune for players to go and get coaching, all the time softly cooing to parents about how their child might make it.

    Look at any British player in any team around the world, but especially playing for British clubs and they will have started out age 8 or 9 for a grassroots club, none of them went straight into an academy. I would say it's in their interests to support grass roots because that's where they get their players from.

    There's currently a petition urging the government to put pressure on the Premier League to honour its commitment to spend £1 billion of the 2016-19 TV revenues deal on grassroots facilities. Most of the money goes on "solidarity" payments to the lower leagues though.

    If little Jonny or Gemma plays any kind of grassroots sport, I urge you to sign the petition. https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/200094

    In my next article, I’ll run you through the life of a grass roots football coach.

     

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    Excellent Kamy. I have now signed.

    Takes me back to a previous time when I used to play.  Some awful pitches, dump kit in changing room never to be touched again until following Saturday when the smell would hit you as you walked in.  Wouldn't have changed it for the world.

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    On 02/12/2017 at 23:50, Paul said:

    It's not a government problem”

    But it is a government problem as you have identified in your article. It’s not the PL which is cutting central government grants or underfunding education, sports facilities etc. It’s the government that is responsible for the closure of and/or lack of facilities:

    “Austerity has councils under huge pressure to slash budgets; Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council's budget for Leisure, Culture & Young People was cut by £2m from 2015/16 to 16/17”

    Schools have long since sold off their pitches to cover short term gaps in funding,”

    As a youngster I had every opportunity to take part in sport. Those opportunities have dwindled away as successive governments have failed to provide the investment to maintain facilities in schools and local authorities. Sport in particular was not seen as important. 

    Now we might see PL support as a solution but we should not lose sight of the real issue and try to shift responsibility elsewhere. Ultimately if we want the facilities for grassroots sport of any type it has to come from our taxes, if it doesn’t it will become or remain elitist. 

    You are of course right that the cause of the problem is government cut backs, and I do agree that a certain amount of health and fitness provision needs to come from the government but to restrict that funding to just football would be a mistake. The government should provide for a basic level of football, rugby, hockey, netball, etc in all schools, but I think the majority of funding for football specifically should come from the sport itself. Hopefully some of my future columns will expand on that and will explain why I think it would be unfair for tax payers to foot all of the bill.

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    20 hours ago, StubbsUK said:

    You are of course right that the cause of the problem is government cut backs, and I do agree that a certain amount of health and fitness provision needs to come from the government but to restrict that funding to just football would be a mistake. The government should provide for a basic level of football, rugby, hockey, netball, etc in all schools, but I think the majority of funding for football specifically should come from the sport itself. Hopefully some of my future columns will expand on that and will explain why I think it would be unfair for tax payers to foot all of the bill.

    I wouldn’t restrict that funding to football either and the game most definitely needs to make a contribution. I do feel though the impact of government policy has had a huge influence on the nation’s sporting prowess, standard of football and general health. 

    When I was at secondary school, 5O years ago, we had 90 minutes of PE, an hours swimming and 3 hours of sport in the curriculum every week. Plus an hours frantic football every lunchtime. 20 years later as parents we had to organise and fund all our children’s sports activity - fortunately for them we could afford to access this. I happen to know the parents of a recent Lancs CCC captain, helping him make the grade required a second mortgage, literally.

    While I accept the influence of foreign players in football influences opportunities for British players the decline from the days when every team was made up of players from the home nations must be closely linked to government policy on sport. 

    Edited by Paul
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    37 minutes ago, Paul said:

    I wouldn’t restrict that funding to football either and the game most definitely needs to make a contribution. I do feel though the impact of government policy has had a huge influence on the nation’s sporting prowess, standard of football and general health. 

    When I was at secondary school, 5O years ago, we had 90 minutes of PE, an hours swimming and 3 hours of sport in the curriculum every week. Plus an hours frantic football every lunchtime. 20 years later as parents we had to organise and fund all our children’s sports activity - fortunately for them we could afford to access this. I happen to know the parents of a recent Lancs CCC captain, helping him make the grade required a second mortgage, literally.

    While I accept the influence of foreign players in football influences opportunities for British players the decline from the days when every team was made up of players from the home nations must be closely linked to government policy on sport. 

    As could the huge rise in obesity.

    I left school 8 years ago and can say that PE simply wasn't considered an "important subject". We had PE twice a week, at hour long lessons, with 15 minutes of that taken up by getting changed/getting in early to change (and if the showers worked, wash) to be on time for next lesson. That is a hour and a half of physical activity per week if weather permitted. Any rain and we took indoor PE lessons (one week the girls would have the gym, we'd have the clasroom and then the next). Whilst in year 7/8 we got hour long dinner times - my group of friends were very sporting and we played football, cricket and even rugby (despite our schools' lack of PE lessons we had 4 huge fields, 1 rugby field, 3 pitches and a cricket field) at dinner times. We also played in the school sports teams. However, in year 9 our new headteacher took the radical step of not allowing 1 hr lunch times, instead opting for 30minutes of dinner time restricted to either the canteen for school bought dinners or the hall for packed lunches. This was to "encourage learning" as she considered childrens' behaviour after lunch as too "boisterous". That took our 1 hour a day of activity away from us and certainly didn't make any improvement into the behaviour of any of us in the afternoon. If anything we were more hyper as we hadn't had our 1 hour to run around like headless chickens.

    Due to this school sports teams training was put back to after school rather than dinner time. Many of the lads couldn't attend as they played football, rugby, cricket, tennis etc elsewhere. Our school sports suffered. What was previously an excellent school for sports (we produced Ryan Allsop the blackpool gk, Chris Woakes for cricket & currently a young all rounder called Aaron Thomason for Warwickshire who is coming through and even a fair few once-professionals like Daryl Westlake at Walsall/Sheff Utd now playing for Stourbridge) now, from testament from my cousins and sister, can barely get an 11 together for their school football team. Apparently my year were the last real "sports team". We won everything. As mentioned we have produced a good few professionals over the time and a lot from my year currently play at quite high amateur levels.

    In our year there were a few obese children, like any other. However most of us were sporting and, even up until now, a lot of my school friends still play some sort of sport at whatever level.  Again from testament from family still in the school and my friends' family it is now rife with obesity. Children can "opt out" of P.E if they feel uncomfortable doing so, which is pretty much everyone apparently.

    It's a blatant lack of respect and laughs in the face of government initiatives of pushing physical education and sports in working class schools to help those that can't afford specialist training/combat obesity. The headmistress that imposed these God awful rules is now a Dame; famed for "turning schools around". Because a letter on a piece of paper is looked upon far more favourable than any accolade in sports.

     

     

     

     

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