Giffnock Soccer Centre: Save our Grassroots game

Giffnock Soccer Centre, home to 1000 youth footballers, has sent an open lettercalling for the Scottish Football Association and Scottish Youth Football Association to urgently act to ensure players can recover some of the football that has been lost to them over the lockdown.

Giffnock Soccer Centre is one of Scotland’s largest youth football clubs. (Photo: Peter Devlin)

As lockdown starts to ease, the club is calling for a plan-of-action to safeguard the futures of young players many of whom may have suffered mental and physical health impacts as a result of the loss of organised sport.

The letter focuses on:

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Lack of planning, proactivity and consultation in particular highlighting that little or no information has been provided to grassroots clubs about what lobbying if any is being undertaken to secure the future of the grassroots game and its players. Just as concerning is the lack of any real consultation with grassroots football clubs to inform and ratify the approach taken.

Many reports have emerged in recent weeks indicating activity levels have dropped markedly among young people across the UK during lockdown and that many grassroots sports clubs may not return.

It is feared that the most isolated and disadvantaged young people in Scotland may be affected the most and consequently never return to youth football.

The letter, signed by The Giffnock Soccer Centre Committee, calls for action across five key areas:

- a clear action plan from the SFA and SYFA outlining how we can return our young players back to football safely in a way which saves clubs and reclaim as much of the playing time they have lost as possible

- practical plans for the introduction of Summer football this season for all youth football leagues to offset the health impacts of lockdown

- a framework of collaboration with Scotland’s 32 local authorities to make facilities available for Summer football

- specific plans for reaching young people in circumstances of social isolation who may have dropped out of the game and also supporting clubs who are facing financial challenges and an uncertain future

- an explanation of how going forward governing bodies will consult with members to ensure grassroots voices are not only heard, but any policy/actions taken are informed by and properly represent grassroots’ concerns

Fergus Reid, Committee Member at Giffnock Soccer Centre, said: “We don’t question that the people running the game in Scotland care and that they have been working hard and under pressure during the pandemic. However all too often youth football has been communicated as an after-thought or missed out altogether. There’s no point in waiting until lockdown is lifted to think about salvaging the grassroots game.

"We need action now. It’s critical our governing bodies lead on bringing the clubs and other partners together to create a plan to support clubs focused on bringing all youth players back to the game. Concrete planning to introduce Summer football this year would be a good starting point.”

He added: This is our national game and we risk losing a generation of players to gaming consoles and ill health.”