The push for better-quality grass-roots pitches has been boosted by a groundbreaking Football Association survey that outlines the vast social and economic benefits of the game, especially in improving women’s confidence.
Telegraph Sport launched its “Save Our Game: The Fight For The Grass Roots” manifesto last year following the collapse of the proposed Wembley Stadium sale and FA figures showing that one in three grass-roots pitches were considered inadequate.
But a new FA survey of around 9,000 amateur players has shown the huge importance of grass-roots football. Measuring not just the direct spend of more than £2 billion on amateur football it also calculates the wider impact on social wellbeing. Using what is called the “Wellbeing Valuation”, which is measured as the equivalent income a person would need to make up for the wellbeing they gain from playing regular football, the FA valued the additional social benefit of grass-roots football at a further £8.7 billion.
The amateur players reported significantly higher happiness, health, confidence and trust compared not just to the general population but also a range of other sports. More than eight million adults play football in England and, with each spending on average £326 a year on their hobby, the amateur game is worth more than £400 million in tax contributions to the exchequer.
Players in the lower-income groups reported some of the greatest quality-of-life benefits while female players report the highest boost in confidence.
“Grass-roots football is ingrained in many local communities and, as this important report shows, makes substantial contributions to the economy and to the quality of life of those who play the game,” said Michael Kitson, an economist at the University of Cambridge.
The FA invests around £1 million each week into the grass roots and is now working with local authorities across England to identify areas that would most benefit from improved pitches.
The report comes at a time when the longer-term health implications of professional football are under particular scrutiny and the FA is also part-funding a study into the prevalence of neurological disease among former professional players.
It was also announced yesterday that English footballers would form part of the Drake Football Study, which is being overseen by world players’ union Fifpro, in cooperation with the Professional Footballers’ Association, and will track the player health of professional players over 10 years. It will be the most comprehensive study of its kind in professional football.
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