Former England Goalkeeper David James launches grassroot football campaign from Welwyn Garden City

PUBLISHED: 15:59 28 September 2020 | UPDATED: 15:59 28 September 2020

A thoughtful David James at Welwyn Garden City football club. Picture: Tom Stockill

A thoughtful David James at Welwyn Garden City football club. Picture: Tom Stockill

TBA

Former England international goalkeeper David James has launched a campaign following a report which shows that as many as 4,000 clubs fear closure in 2021 due to COVID-19.

Former England goalkeeper launches campaign to support grassroots, after a report reveals that one in 10 grassroots football clubs won't survive the next 12 months without Government intervention.Former England goalkeeper launches campaign to support grassroots, after a report reveals that one in 10 grassroots football clubs won't survive the next 12 months without Government intervention.

Over the weekend David was in Welwyn Garden City, where he won his first County Cup back in 1984 aged 14, to promote the importance of grassroots football.

The Switch Before Pitch Awareness, by energy provider Utilita, aims to help the UK’s amateur clubs, their players and communities save millions of pounds by cutting their energy wastage.

David James said: “Back in the ‘80s, I was one of those youngsters, playing for my local team, Panshanger FC. My mum couldn’t drive, so my friend and his dad would take me to the club and watch me play in wind, rain, snow, and even the occasional bit of sun, and I’d pay my 50p a week ‘subs’ for the privilege – and giving the football club a small, but vital, revenue stream.

“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.

David James giving the kids a team talk. Picture: Tom StockillDavid James giving the kids a team talk. Picture: Tom Stockill

“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.”   

Utilita’s State of Play Report revealed the financial impact of COVID-19 on grassroots football clubs, with clubs’ incomes reducing by 46 per cent on average, and one in 10 clubs losing 90-100 per cent of their income.

Parents’ financial struggles will get in the way of players returning to clubs too, as 17 per cent say they can’t afford equipment such as football boots, and 20 per cent say they can’t afford to return their child to their grassroots club at all.

At the centre of the campaign is a list of free and simple ways to save energy, and what those savings equate to in terms of new football equipment, such as bibs, footballs, and cones through to team strips and new goals.

David James and Welwyn youth players. picture: Tom StockillDavid James and Welwyn youth players. picture: Tom Stockill

Ray Fiveash, Chairman, Welwyn Garden City FC said: “Every family that joins a club like ours instantly becomes part of a larger community. The grassroots football community look out for one another, and do what they can to help make each other’s lives easier.

“Without grassroots clubs, millions of families would be isolated and would suffer. It would leave a hole in their lives - mine included.”

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, to be entered into a club league table to win equipment, kits and other goodies for their clubs.

Each month Utilita will collate examples of those clubs making the most effort to save and raise money and will distribute them as part of a monthly newsletter via the grassroots football network.

For more information on how grassroots clubs can save and raise money, and to win football-related prizes for your club, visit www.utilita.co.uk/switch-before-pitch.


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