FORMER Liverpool and England goalkeeper David James has revealed a damning report in the difficulties faced by around 4,000 grassroots football clubs during Covid.

The report also reiterates the numerous benefits, the UK’s more than 40,000 grassroots clubs have on mental and physical health - and the high cost that the state will pay, should thousands disappear.

Funded and created by energy provider, Utilita the State of Play Report revealed the financial impact of Covid-19 on grassroots football clubs, with clubs’ incomes reducing by 46 per cent on average, with one in 10 clubs losing 90-100 per cent of their income.

Parents’ financial struggles will get in the way of players returning to clubs too, as 17 per cent say they can’t afford equipment such as football boots, and 20 per cent say they can’t afford to return their child to their grassroots club at all.

At the centre of the campaign is a list of free and simple ways to save energy, and what those savings equate to in terms of new football equipment, such as bibs, footballs, and cones through to team strips and new goals.

Ambassador for the year-long Switch Before Pitch campaign, David James, is a passionate environmentalist, having converted nearly every aspect of his life to promote a green lifestyle.

He said: “The Prime Minister Boris Johnson said only this week that ‘sports clubs are the life and soul of our communities’ - and he is right. Grassroots football clubs play such an important role and everything that can be done to support their existence right now, should be done.

“This campaign will help clubs focus on saving and raising money, but most importantly, it will educate everyone it reaches about the simple ways we can all use less energy wherever we are, which will impact our pockets, and most importantly, our planet.

“Using tangible examples of what saving energy can buy, such as bibs, or a pair of new goals, is smart – poor or missing equipment can mean the difference between a game being played or not at grassroots level, so affording everything a team needs is crucial.”

As part of the Switch Before Pitch campaign, grassroots football clubs will be invited to share their fundraising efforts and ideas on social media using the hashtag #switchbeforepitch, to be entered into a club league table to win equipment, kits and other goodies for their clubs.

Paul Kirton, Founder of Team Grassroots, played an important part in designing the education assets for the campaign. He explained what level of hardship grassroots teams are facing today and why so many will embrace the campaign.

“The two main areas of focus for grassroots clubs today is safeguarding in a new Covid-19 world, and fundraising, to make up for all the lost income, and extra investment in safeguarding measures they have been required to make," he said.

“Fundraising and saving money isn’t just the responsibility of the club bosses or the team manager.

"Players and supporters know this only too well, but sometimes it’s hard to identify ways to save or fundraise – this campaign will ensure every club has inspiration, ideas and ways to save at their fingertips."

Bill Bullen, Conservationist and CEO of Utilita Energy, said: "The report provides a snapshot of the fact that although many clubs were finding it tough to survive before Covid-19, this latest storm has created a near-impossible challenge for too many of them."

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