Coronavirus and Grassroots football in Kent
Coronavirus and Grassroots football in Kent

Grassroots football has been affected by the impact of coronavirus in Kent.  

With the season cancelled, and suspended for the foreseeable future, the regular flow of income for clubs is not happening. Match subs, pitch fees, training fees and sponsorship aren’t being paid to clubs. 

In addition to the financial uncertainty over grassroots football, there are also worries about when football can safely resume. Players will be eager to get back on the pitch, but a safe return at grassroots level could be some way off yet. 

As the pandemic developed, the Kent FA offered plenty of support for leagues, clubs and players on their website. In their dedicated section to Covid-19, they have been updating sections to support grassroots football with FAQs, funding options from Sport England and Everyday Active and even dispelling rumours and hearsay about the coronavirus. 

The organisation is also still running online courses, workshops and webinars to support players, coaches and referees. 

Earlier this week, over 60 clubs in Kent also applied for the Football Foundations pitch preparation fund. The scheme offers clubs up to £5,000 in funding for clubs to maintain their playing surfaces to be ‘Match Fit’ prior to the return of grassroots football. 

Despite the help and support offered from various organisations, league secretaries and executives continue to monitor the situation. They, and the clubs in their leagues, have made tough individual decisions about their cash flow during the pandemic. 

Chief Executive of the Kent Youth League, Ken Brooke, said: “We are fully aware that clubs and teams will have not been able to get any income so we have opened up the application process for next season, and not charged the clubs any fees for next season so far. This has led to 170 applications so far with a week still left to apply. 

“We have made clubs aware of where to go to try and find funding – Glebe FC received £10,000 this week from one of the foundations, and we have encouraged clubs to look to see what they can get.”

Chairman of the Andreas Carter Kent County League, Gavin Hoare, said: “We have had some positive responses to applications for extra funding, sadly we have lost our main sponsor.

 “I suspect many clubs may have issue with funding and sponsorship.”

While the issue of funding and sponsorship continue, another area of concern is when and how matches can resume. It appears that grassroots football may be some way off a safe return yet, despite some of the restrictions on social distancing relaxed by the government recently.

Ken said: “Safety for all has to be top priority and whilst I would love to see football back at our level, you can see the issues posed by just trying to get Premier League games played behind closed doors.

“I do feel that where we have good support from parents, no parent will risk their child catching it and it would be impossible for us to police “social distancing” between parents and spectators.”

Gavin echoed the need for safety before grassroots football can return safely, he said: “The challenges are not just the now but the future, we are having to make plans around a very uncertain future with so many variables that it is impossible to cover all scenarios.

“We have to separate the professional game from grassroots. The pros have access to testing and medical facilities. The rest of us are at the mercy of mother nature. Leagues will not resume until we have been satisfied by all the authorities that it is safe to do so.”