THE spiralling cost of playing football at grass-roots level could be driving talent from the game, according to Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce.
Players such as Jamie Vardy, who have risen from Non-League obscurity to spearhead England’s attack, could be lost unless funding issues are addressed.
Allardyce said: “The Jamie Vardy story is great for the game. It has been hard not to be impressed by what he has achieved.
“Yet the fact remains he is something of an anomaly. Of course, top players will invariably make it. The cream will rise, so to speak.
“You can’t help but think that some good English players like him are slipping through the net, in part because of the lack of effective funding for sport at the highest level – the Government.
“For me there has to be significant and sustained investment in the provision of sport and sports facilities, right from schools, through to the grass-roots levels. Sport provides great opportunities for young people to develop and it should be an integral part of every child’s education.
“It is also becoming increasingly expensive to fund local football and leagues are folding which is terribly sad. In many instances this is because there are competing leisure pursuits that are cheaper. It is not necessarily a lack of interest, but the costs of playing are greater than ever.
“We have to find more effective ways of funding sport and give grass-roots football, and other sports the opportunity to flourish.”
Allardyce has a valid point. On average, a council pitch costs £80 a time. Referees’ fees for a season are around £600, league and county affiliation fees are anything upwards of £500 and if you hire a 3G pitch for training, it will set you back well over £1,200 a year. And that is before you take into account the cost of kit and equipment.
Allardyce is helping to highlight some initiatives that are already starting to reap dividends and redress the funding crisis. One of them is ‘My Club’, which is positioning itself to be one of the largest providers of grass-roots funding in the UK, and Allardyce has endorsed the company’s initiatives by becoming their Football Brand Ambassador.
The company is committed to helping provide funding for grassroots sport with a varied suite of products and solutions, starting with its unique betting service, which gives a percentage of revenue and kit to each club that uses the My Club Betting service.
Several clubs have already benefitted financially from the model. The premise is simple: Every club has the opportunity to receive a free, tailor-made betting service. The members and supporters bet via the club’s own service and the club is rewarded with free sports equipment.
Unlike all other bookmakers, the service gives money back – no less than 20 per cent of net revenues (or £20 in every £100) return to the respective club for development every month. MYCLUBBETTING.COM has been rolling out its service to grassroots teams, up to and including the National League.
Midlands Regional Alliance Premier League side Wirksworth Town have taken advantage of the unique offer, landing a brand new kit within just three weeks of receiving the service.
Club spokesman and midfielder Rob Inkle said: “We are delighted with the kit. Just 11 people had to sign up and bet £20 – and we received a full kit for 15 players within days.
“The betting service is great – it is just like any other on-line bookmaker. A few of the lads like a bet and if they lose, the club gets 20% back. There are no catches, no hidden costs and we will continue to benefit from the revenue stream.
“The offers are great, too. We also received promotional materials to boost numbers and couldn’t be more pleased to get the myclubbetting.com service.”
Ryman League Division One South side Whyteleafe F.C. are sponsored by My Club Betting and their chairman Mark Coote added: “It is a fast, efficient service that our fans seem to love. Not only does it offer a huge range of sports betting opportunities, the fans also know they are supporting the club, too. It was a no-brainer really, and a completely free service.”
Clubs like Wirksworth Town and Whyteleafe who take up the MYCLUBBETTING.COM service are helping to ensure that the odds of missing the next Jamie Vardy through a lack of funding are lengthening.