More than 4,000 football teams could fold within a year because of coronavirus

More than 4,000 grassroots football teams could fold within a year because of financial hardship caused by coronavirus, a report backed by former England goalkeeper David James has warned.

The average recreational club has seen revenues fall by 46 per cent due to a collapse in player's subs, sponsorship deals and the cancellation of fundraising events.

One in 10 of the 61 clubs surveyed for the 'State of Play' report by energy provider Utilita fear they will not survive the pandemic. If this was extrapolated across Britain's 43,000 grassroots clubs, some 4,000 are under threat.

Former England ace James is fronting a campaign to advise teams how they can save money by reducing their power usage.

A list has been created detailing how players can save energy, in the home or the clubhouse, and what those savings equate to in terms of new equipment such as bibs, footballs, and cones, through to team strips and new goalposts.

Some of the tips include unplugging games consoles and phone chargers when they’re not in use which would save £30 annually per player.

This could buy a club the equivalent of 12 corner flags and poles.

Similarly, turning heating down by a single degree can save a team of 11 players £880 – enough for a full kit, training tops, balls, trophies and a first aid bag.

The year-long ‘Switch Before Pitch’ campaign, funded and created by pay as you go Energy provider Utilita, has David James’ endorsement as a passionate environmentalist, having converted every aspect of his life to be as green as possible.

He said: “Grassroots football has always been such an important element of every local community, and everything that can be done to support their existence right now is vital.

“This campaign will help clubs focus on saving and raising money, but most importantly, it will educate everyone it reaches about the simple ways we can all use less energy wherever we are, which will impact our pockets, and most importantly, our planet.

“Using tangible examples of what saving energy can buy, such as bibs, or a pair of new goals is smart – poor or missing equipment can mean the difference between a game being played or not at grassroots level, so affording everything a team needs is crucial.”

The campaign comes after research of 1,000 parents with children in grassroots football teams found three in 10 have never missed watching a game, home or away.

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Apart from attending matches, 42 per cent of mums and dads have taken on other roles to help their child’s team – including helping in the clubhouse, washing kit, coaching and raising funds.

But one in five parents felt their child struggled without weekly games during the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving half fearing for the future of their local clubs.

As a result, more than four in 10 have raised money or donated directly to help keep their local clubs afloat so their children will have somewhere to play.

However, it also emerged just under half of the parents polled via OnePoll struggle to get their youngsters away from their games console, in order to play a physical match.

As part of the Switch Before Pitch campaign, grassroots football clubs will be invited to share their fundraising efforts and ideas on social media using the hashtag #switchbeforepitch.

They will then be entered into a club league table to win football-related prizes.

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Bill Bullen, conservationist and CEO of Utilita Energy said of the link between energy and grassroots clubs: “Taking into account that many clubs were finding it tough to survive before Covid-19, our report provides a snapshot of how this latest storm has created a near-impossible challenge for too many clubs.

“All individuals and communities are experiencing the impact of Covid-19 – as an energy company that uses technology to help households take control of their energy usage, we are seeing the struggles first-hand and doing everything in our power to help.

“So, it’s really important to save money where we can.

“The cheapest, and greenest, energy is the energy we don’t use, and we hope the Switch Before Pitch campaign enables today’s households, and bill payers of the future – to save money by using and wasting less energy.

“This will free up finances for the things that people love most – in this case, football!”

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TOP TIPS FOR GRASSROOTS PLAYERS TO SAVE ENERGY – AND MONEY

Save energy by switching the heating down by one degree
= saves 11 people (equivalent of one team) £880 per year
= and buys the equivalent of team football strip (£250), 2 goals (£250), team training tops (£180), 10 training footballs (£80), First aid bag (£25), team trophies (£95)

Save energy by unplugging games consoles and chargers when not in use
= saves 11 people £330 per year
= and buys the equivalent of 2 portable goals (£264), 12 corner flags and poles (£66)

Save energy by switching other electricals off at the plug – not leaving on standby
= saves 11 people £330 per year
= and buys 4 training rebounders (£300), 1 handheld rebounder (£30)

Save energy by turning off lights when leaving bedrooms and changing rooms
= saves 11 people £154 per year
= and buys 15 cones (£54), 30 hurdles (£140)

Save energy by washing football kit at 30 degrees instead of 60
= saves 11 people £99 per year
= and buys 1 agility speed training kit (£99)

TOTAL= savings of £1793 per year per team

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