Challenges Clubs Face During Covid-19
Author: Dennis Parkes
As if running a club wasn’t hard enough.
During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s clear that a majority of grassroots clubs and initiatives have faced a myriad of unavoidable issues. Apart from the possibility of operating a club at a loss, there have been sudden impact on social relationships, negative physical implications and the absence of the psychological benefits that playing sport at all levels brings. None of this has been helped by the uncertainty that has shrouded us all since March 2020.
Clubs around the UK were already facing troubles with a lack of financial support, increasing costs, competition for players and a lack of quality (affordable) training facilities. Factor in the pandemic, where adult income has suffered a great deal more, as well as a range of families and players not yet comfortable to return due to concerns about safety, self-isolating and potentially exposing themselves to the coronavirus, the disruption to grassroots sport, weekly training and matches and registration numbers will surely echo for seasons to come.
With this lack of participation comes fewer teams. Fewer available coaching courses means less volunteers. With this lack of income and high expenditure for teams, how can we work to help grassroots sport thrive on the other side of this testing period?
Nevertheless, leading into the remainder of this season (whenever grassroots sport returns) and next season, clubs still have to cover the costs of training facilities, equipment, staff wages, league fees, insurance, registration fees, council rates, FA fees, maintenance, to name just a few of their potential expenses. Naturally, each club is different and with no weekly subs, the danger of fewer players returning, no functions or fundraising opportunities, the financial struggle adds to grassroots worries.
It’s easy to forget that amongst all of this, that most clubs exist for the communities that they serve, so perhaps the greatest loss has been participation numbers in the beautiful game. The costs for those involved with clubs as players, coaches and staff have been detrimental to physical and emotional well-being and the effects have been more than just the financial damages that have occurred in grassroots football.
On the bright side however, a growing number of clubs have opted to continue their engagement virtually, which has been a silver-lining for players, parents (and coaches!) of all age groups and abilities, but it is key to remember that it has not been possible for all clubs to do so. The pandemic has seen young player’s development move into the virtual world of late, with many technical directors and coaches hosting online sessions for children and informative lectures for parents. Some fantastic content has been created and shared, and I’m sure we are all the richer for it. Clubs have struck a great balance between physical sessions, maintaining and growing their player’s ABCs from a home environment, and technical details with ball mastery exercises. Not forgetting of course, the social element of getting to see and ‘chat’ to their friends for some part of their day! This engagement with their clubs has been a real lifeline and something that, though not comparable to the ‘real thing’, hopefully has a lasting benefit on their technical abilities and execution.
It will be interesting to see how many clubs maintain these sessions once grassroots sport returns to ‘normal’.
Virtual learning however, has its limitations, particularly in the world of sport and when children are involved. The reality is that not all football clubs and players have the resources to offer and access an online network. Furthermore, children and adults are already on screens all day, with a large percentage of parents have reported hardships in encouraging their children to strike a healthy balance of playing football digitally and physically, with many preferring to play online, rather than getting out and playing on the pitch.
Looking forward, we hope the return to play will come soon and we must ensure that local, community clubs return to being a beacon for so much life and enjoyment.