The report revealed that 2,600 grassroots football clubs have folded and a further 6,000 are at risk of closure between now and the end of next season.
The Price to Play Report, commissioned by Utilita Energy in association with David James MBE, asked 1,000 parents of grassroots footballers aged 5-16 how their football had been impacted by the pandemic and, latterly, by the cost-of-living crisis.
The report reveals that 7% of clubs have closed, and a further 16% of parents fear their child’s club could be the next to go.
The new report is the sequel to Utilita’s State of Play Report published in 2020, which revealed the devastation caused by the pandemic on grassroot football.
As the previous report had warned, 10% of players have not returned to the pitch, with 58% of parents saying affordability got in the way of play.
Parents said the two main barriers to their child returning to grassroots football today, affording subs and the kit needed to play, exist because of the cost-of-living crisis.
This figure has almost doubled since Utilita’s State of Play Report.
A further third of parents fear they will not be able to afford kit for next season.
David James MBE, grassroots football champion and ambassador of Utilita’s Football Rebooted recycling campaign, comments on the kit crisis that kids are facing: “The cost of football kit cannot be allowed to be a barrier to playing football.
“There is enough for everyone – we just need to think twice about throwing away perfectly good items.
“About two-thirds of parents say their child requires more than one pair of football boots for playing on different surfaces, out of which 27% said they can’t afford more than one pair of boots, limiting where their child can play.
“Football Rebooted is the game’s biggest ever environmental movement, and there are enough boots for every child who wants to play – no matter what the surface.”
Annual subs have also become a major hurdle for parents.
Only six in ten parents say they can comfortably afford their child’s football subs, and the rest said they either have to make sacrifices elsewhere or accept support from the club.
Families in the Northeast are facing the biggest struggle to afford subs with 46% of families facing difficult decisions.
The statistics are also worrying for Scotland, with 32% of Scottish parents having said the cost of living crisis will impact their ability to afford football, and a further 26% of Scottish parents said they will not be able to afford football in the very near future
Paul Kirton, founder of Team Grassroots, the UK’s largest online grassroots football community, comments on struggles that families face: “Grassroots clubs have demonstrated their incredible resilience during the last three seasons.
“The community spirit carries these clubs through, and they would never knowingly let a child miss football because they can’t pay.
“Very few parents or their kids would be honest about why they’re not turning up, or why they haven’t returned for a season, and that is totally understandable.
Utilita’s Football Rebooted campaign has gone from strength to strength since its launch in May 2021, now with 500 dedicated boot collection points in schools, colleges, clubs, and community centres all around the country.
The campaign set out to rehome one million pairs of boots and is well on track to smash the target by the end of the year.
Bill Bullen, Utilita’s Founder and CEO of Utilita Energy, comments on the report findings: “For millions of people, football is at the core of their lives and their community, and we can’t let that slip away, for all the obvious reasons.
“I really hope this report will urge decision makers to intervene before affordability results in families and children becoming absent from their clubs.”
Families requiring football boots can find their local collection point listed at www.footballrebooted.co.uk, and are advised to call ahead to check they have the right type and size required.
Football boot collection points are available free of charge, courtesy of Utilita – all requests must go via the dedicated form on the website.