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Have we finally reached the summit of grassroots football?

This month I have decided to write about grassroots football and the growing feeling that we might have finally reached the summit unless we can change our habits.

Now whilst it is difficult to determine whether we have reached the summit of grassroots football or not, as it is an ongoing process that involves continuous improvement and development, it is evident that we are fast running out of pitches to use or hire, and therefore this is leading to a peak in this sport.

Grassroots football has, for years, faced various challenges, including funding issues, lack of facilities, and declining participation rates in the men’s game. However, efforts have been made to address these issues, such as increased investment from the government and
the private sector, the development of grassroots facilities, and initiatives to encourage more people, particularly girls and women, to participate in the sport.

A vast sum of these investment has been made at secondary school level however, with a large majority of schools in the area benefitting from new artificial pitches, which they are then able to put out for hire when the school is not using them, which in turn then benefits both the schools and the local clubs using them. But try and book a one hour slot in the evening during the season, and you will be greatly disappointed.

Larger clubs that do not have their own suitable facilities are being accused of block booking these facilities and therefore not giving others an opportunity to build on their numbers or participation with existing club members. They may retort that their members also deserve to be playing etc. and that it’s a first come first served rule.

With the dwindling number of council owned open spaces, or recreation fields, that can be used for football purposes, and no direct investment or strategy from local councils, whether borough or parish, it is only fuelling the fire. If nothing is done to address these issues, then we will start to see the demise of several local village sides as the bigger boys take over.

Whilst not necessarily helping the situation with pitches, it is wonderful to celebrate the growth of women’s football within our clubs, it has been nothing short of remarkable over the last few years.

With both Aylesford FC and Tunbridge Wells Foresters FC maintaining two women’s sides each, they are joined by Sevenoaks Town FC, Borough Green FC, New Ash Green FC, Larkfield FC, Chipstead FC, Kings Hill FC and Ide Hill FC. All these clubs open age numbers are only expecting to grow in the foreseeable future as younger players, who have played throughout their school years, turn 16.

So, whilst progress has been made, there is still much work to be done to ensure the continued growth and success of grassroots football in West Kent. As such, it is important to remain committed to investing in and improving the sport at all levels to ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the benefits that come from participating in grassroots football; and this must start with the local council bodies.

Steve Rowley
Publishing Editor of West Kent Sport & Wellbeing magazine and Founder of One Team Media Ltd.



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