Why Community Sport Is Even More Important In Times Of Crisis
It’s fair to say that it’s been a challenging few years. The financial crash led to austerity, then we have had the Covid-19 pandemic and now rising prices affecting the cost of living amid the backdrop of a war between Russia and Ukraine.
We saw last summer when England reached the final of EURO 2020 what a great fillip sport can be, a momentary distraction from the toughest times.
But football goes far beyond a brief cheer in delight when a goal goes in or your team wins.
Austerity has seen a cut to public funding, resulting in many youth centres closing their doors while the pandemic has had a devastating social impact which has left a generation of young people feeling lost and uncertain, their mental health affected to the extent that one in five young people have experienced suicidal thoughts.
Calacus has been working with Made by Sport, the national charity, to highlight the value for businesses in football and beyond to address these mounting issues, providing much-needed tools and skills to respond to the challenges that face them; mental health, crime involvement, struggling to find employment.
Grassroots football has been such a saviour for so many people, with the hard work of volunteers making a real impact.
Yet over 50% of community sports clubs and organisations rely solely on volunteers and yet there has been a £600 million reduction by local authorities into sport over the past decade, with thousands of the clubs struggling to secure funding because of limited resources and a lack of funding available.
The Monday Night Club in Worcester supports adults with learning disabilities and autism through football coaching and competition, gaining the benefits derived from belonging to a team, training and challenging each other together, boosting confidence and resilience.
The Midland Soccer Academy in Staffordshire has implemented a junior leadership programme to develop personal skills which also helps to boost participation.
Over the past decade, Bromyard Football Club has provided football sessions for more than 500 juniors, playing a vital role in the community by providing children their families with a recreational outlet that gives enjoyment, personal fulfilment in a safe, welcoming and enjoyable environment.
These are just a fraction of the football-based community clubs reliant on the support of charities such as Made by Sport, local funding organisations and businesses to ensure that they survive.
Made by Sport recently undertook some research, State of Play, which found that the Social Return on Investment (SROI) for sports for development is £6 for every £1 spent.
While much of recent focus has been on club ownership and the suitability of overseas owners, the importance of clubs large and small to their communities cannot be understated.
While business pours millions into sponsorship and corporate entertainment, there is a significant financial benefit to investing in football at grassroots level, building relationships and customer loyalty that lasts way beyond the full-time whistle.
Words: David Alexander