Grassroots Football Fans Focus on the Positive

As fans try to recover from the disappointment of England’s near victory in Euro 2020, the coverage of the competition will include statistics and figures about the teams’ and players’ performances over the course of the competition.

One of the areas that may not enjoy so many column inches is the place where it all starts – grassroots football. The Football Association may make headlines when they are beset by controversy, but the work that they do with up-and-coming players, small clubs and youth teams often goes overlooked. 

Although there are always questionable economic analyses of the benefits of international football competitions, the positive impact of football at lower levels is evident in numerous ways. There are plenty of players who will never make headlines or be awarded a trophy but they understand the real value of a game that unites people and brings a raft of benefits to the individuals involved as well as the wider community and society as a whole.

Among the lower echelons of the football hierarchy, there are hundreds and thousands of people who are playing for their own reasons. They aren’t taking home thousands in wages or getting cheered on by an entire nation, but their footballing experiences are even more profound.

Football’s role in social inclusion

Some play because they want to find a place in their local community and make some connections with people that share their interest in sport. There is plenty of evidence that shows how grassroots football plays a big role in promoting good mental and physical health among children and adults alike.

It’s also an important factor in bringing together disparate communities in areas where there may not be many shared experiences and common ground. Local clubs have proved hugely popular in areas with large immigrant populations as they provide a way for those who may not have many community connections to meet people, make friends and build themselves a support network.

This is particularly important for men, who are reporting that they are seeing the physical and mental health benefits of engaging with their local football clubs. The FA report that grassroots football contributes to improved health outcomes, with estimates suggesting that they might be saving the NHS as much as £43 million per year by promoting physical activity and contributing to better mental health among players.

Widespread benefits

None of the players are paid, and none of the spectators have bought tickets, but the economic value of grassroots football comes from the wider benefits that it offers. Social inclusion is a pressing concern among communities with large migrant populations. Many individuals struggle with the pressures of ‘fitting in’, particularly those who have experienced trauma or fled their home country due to an unstable political situation.

Many families with children find that grassroots football is an excellent way for the whole family to get involved in a community activity which, in turn, helps them to develop language skills, to make friends and to feel a sense of belonging in the UK.

Promoting football at this level also helps to promote inclusion and reduce discrimination. By lowering the barriers to entry and providing opportunities to play for free, national and local football associations can open up a world of opportunities for those who might otherwise be unable to access leisure facilities.

Even when the government was promoting their hostile environment policy and stigmatising immigrants, many keen fans who were in the process of applying for visas found themselves welcome at their local football club. 

As the top players are doing their bit to promote causes such as child poverty and systemic racism, the impact trickles down and gives grassroots players hope that the beautiful game is something to share with everyone, regardless of their status.

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Mark Meets
Mark Meets
MarkMeets Media is British-based online news magazine covering showbiz, music, tv and movies
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