September 25 – A survey into the lasting effect the pandemic will have on grassroots football has highlighted a number of trends within clubs and national federations that provide both an opportunity and a reset for this key area of the sport global.
The survey by Robin Russell, a grassroots football consultant who works with UEFA, the AFC and US Youth Soccer and is the CEO of Sports Path covered North America, Europe and Asia and centred on what trends the respondents thought would be prevalent in a Post Covid World for Grassroots Football.
As Russell points out, “while the return of grassroots football is not the most important issue facing the world today, for millions of players and their families it was a key part of their lives.”
One of the key findings in the report is a growing emphasis on informal, semi-structured, turn-up and play football. Termed ‘free play’, it is not focussed around building teams to play in leagues but keeping players engaged in the game and clubs where they turn up and join teams that play in a festival football environment.
“There looks to be a growing demand from kids and parents to stay in their own bubble for all the obvious public health reasons, rather than travel 50 miles for a league match,” said Russell.
A massive 80% of respondents reported that there will be a greater demand for local programmes with more day long festivals over leagues and more mixed-age football that is informal. For this there will be more facilitators than coaches.
Ultimately this could impact the pay-to-play model in countries where large clubs with elite teams and full time coaches are sustained by a body of paying parents.
Russell also pointed to a rapidly growing increase in grassroots coach education online. “There is a need for more qualified coaches,” said Russell, “and the pandemic has highlighted the opportunity. National associations are doing a lot as they embrace this area.”
Respondents to the survey did not expect to see a major decrease in grassroots participation, though 50% did anticipate a drop in numbers of up to 50%.
“Grassroots football, like grassroots sport is dynamic. This report is, therefore, a summary of
what people, who are in engaged in grassroots football, predict is likely to happen post-Covid,” said Russell.
At the endo of the report Russell challenges grassroots to question what is their “post-Covid plan”.
“How will your club, business, charity, school, programme or your Association exploit the opportunities of these likely trends to provide grassroots football for more players?”
See the full survey by clicking here: Final Post covid grassroots football and youth soccer report
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