High time the game dealt with crisis in adult grassroots football

For Graham Rodber, the perfect pitches, escalating hype and £1.9bn turnover of a Premier League season reaching a thrilling climax are a world away. In a season when TV income has hit record levels and top-flight attendances have continued to defy expectations, the vice chairman (not to mention general secretary and referees secretary) of the Southern Sunday Football League in south London is faced with a huge fixture pile-up and escalating costs.

Having paid local authorities upfront for pitches, some of its teams have not played since early December as a result of the weather that seems to get worse year on year. Under-investment in facilities that would help make the pitches playable has left matches unfulfilled and teams facing additional £200 bills for artificial pitches to complete their fixtures.

“The costs for teams now to get a game of football is extortionate,” Rodber says. “It costs teams £99 for a one-off game, and that’s without the £35 cost of a referee. That works out about £10 subs per person per game. What’s more, costs are going up at an unbelievable rate – it cost £80 last year compared to the £99 it is this year.”

At a time when the cost of living is increasing and people generally have less spare disposable income, those are not inconsiderable figures. “Our league isn’t the richest in the world – we’ve had to use £1,000 of our reserves this year to keep things going,” he adds. “We’re paying upfront to cover our teams but what’s happening is teams aren’t paying up in the end because they’re not being able to play their games. To be honest, we’re not sure how much longer we can go on like this.”

To find out more click here; http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2014/mar/27/crisis-adult-grassroots-football-fa-sport-england

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