FORZA Grassroots Report 2024




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We recently conducted a survey aimed at those actively engaged in grassroots football, to help build a better picture of the goings-on throughout the football pyramid. The aim was clear: to map and collate the dense world of grassroots football across the UK. Through understanding its challenges, aspirations, and the driving force behind its longevity, we can not only be aware, but actively engage and support, positioning ourselves as an extension of the grassroots community at every step.

With a mission to give the grassroots community a voice and highlight their highs, along with the day-to-day challenges, we spent the first part of 2024 reaching out to hundreds of clubs to create the FORZA Grassroots Football Report 2024. From the pitch to the ticket office or chairpersons to volunteer coaches, this survey aims to shed light on the current state of grassroots football in the UK – a vibrant and dynamic landscape that is often overlooked.

Our survey explores the current landscape of grassroots football and how participation in grassroots football is evolving. Additionally, we’ve examined what grassroots football requires for sustained growth, ensuring its continuity for generations to come.

To encompass as many parts of the football pyramid as possible, we reached out to over 3,000 clubs spanning from step 6 and below. Through this extensive effort, we engaged with 100’s of individuals actively involved in the operations of the clubs, including chairpersons and secretaries.

Our data is compiled from responses from over 180 different football clubs, comprising more than 600 teams and collectively representing an estimated 6,000 participants. Among the contributors, 71% represent amateur club levels, while 28% operated within the semi-professional sphere, with professional sides making up 1%.

The voices captured in this study are not fleeting; they were often associated with grassroots football in some respect for the long haul. Most respondents boast a wealth of experience, with 71% of responders having dedicated five years or more to their respective clubs. Furthermore, 89% for respondents have committed at least five years of their lives to grassroots football in any capacity, underscoring their enduring dedication to the sport at its foundational level.

The quality of facilities and infrastructure is integral to the success of any club, and plays an essential role in the development and sustainability of grassroots football. This section delves into the accessibility of amenities and equipment, as well as the challenge of rising costs within the game.

Generally, the access to facilities is good, with 46% of respondents ranking their facilities as good (4) or very good (5). Meanwhile, a mere 12% of respondents deemed their facilities as poor (1) or below average (2). For most clubs, facilities are maintained by volunteers (42%), illustrating their dependency on their communities.

Whilst the majority of clubs have access to their own stadium or ground (54%), it’s notable that 62% of clubs surveyed lack access to purpose-built training facilities. However, 63% of clubs do have access to more than one pitch to facilitate their activities.

In terms of ownership, rented and leased grounds are the most common, with just 26% of clubs owning their own pitches.

The significance of pitches for all clubs cannot be overstated. However, the turbulent events of recent years have meant that funding this essential aspect of operations is getting more difficult. Unsurprisingly, 81% of clubs renting their pitches reported facing a minimum 5% increase in costs, whilst 29% of clubs have seen an increase of 16% or more, underscoring the mounting financial pressure on grassroots clubs.

Balancing the books is a difficult challenge for football clubs, where costs can quickly spiral out of control in the face of inconsistent funding and income. Membership fees (54%) and sponsorship (74%) stands as the primary sources of revenue. However, our research revealed that gate receipts past steps 9 and 10 became increasingly unreliable.

Coupled with the unpredictability of revenue streams, seven out of ten clubs expressed they did not have enough funding to sustain their activities.

In addition, 28% of clubs disclosed that they were using football equipment beyond normal wear and tear levels, demonstrating the strain on their resources. Three out of ten clubs (29%) felt they didn’t have enough equipment to operate with. This wear and tear is exacerbated by the fact that most clubs (71%) share equipment across multiple age groups and teams.

Participation lies at the heart of grassroots football. Every club aspires to create a warm, welcoming and inclusive environment where individuals of all ages can develop and grow – both on and off the pitch.

Here, we will examine the landscape of youth teams, offering a glimpse into the state of play. Additionally, we highlight the growth and empowerment of women’s and girls’ teams, indicative of the increasing inclusivity within the grassroots football community.

Across all clubs, the presence of a variety of youth levels shows the football pyramids’ vitality. Encouragingly, 69% of clubs report an increase in participation levels, with only 10% of clubs seeing a noticeable decline in the number of players across all levels.

Additionally, the prominence of women’s and girls’ teams serves as a beacon of the overarching inclusivity and accessibility within football clubs. Following the triumph of the Lionesses in 2022 and the continued growth of the Women’s Super League around the UK, it’s encouraging to witness the ripple effect cascading down to grassroots levels.

From devoted parents to dedicated coaches, volunteers are essential for keeping clubs ticking over. Across all tiers, volunteers play a pivotal role in kickstarting games and providing coaching assistance. 45% of clubs depend on at least 11 to 15 volunteers, with three out of ten clubs (29%) utilising over 15 as part of their extended staff. One club cited the involvement of hundreds of volunteers to keep all their youth levels and matchday operations running.

FORZA & Net World Sports continues to produce accessible and innovative professional sporting goods and equipment, intended with lowering the bar of entry for aspirational players and clubs across the UK and beyond. As part of this research, 5 lucky clubs have been awarded their share of £1,000 to spend on FORZA equipment such as goals, goal nets, training equipment, footballs and other essential supplies to help refresh their equipment. In 2024 we will continue to support the sport we love, and we look forward to seeing the continued growth of grassroots clubs and their communities.

Collated responses from over 186 individuals from footballs clubs across England from step 6 and below. Surveyed between February and March 2024.

 By: Lois Jones

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