The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on many sports leagues, forcing widespread fixture cancellations and postponing cup games. Premier League players are showing positive test results and have been subsequently forced to self-isolate, while Football League games have been rearranged.
Grassroots football has suffered a great deal of economic strain since the pandemic began. The financial impact on clubs has been detrimental, and some have folded due to severe losses. The F.A. set up an emergency fund in June to pay grants of £500 to 4,000 grassroots clubs, which is around one-tenth of the national number. Despite these efforts, the average recreational football club lost a revenue of 46% due to a lack of games and a loss in sponsorships.
Utilita Energy formed a campaign to fund grassroots football, recognizing that local football teams are valuable in communities across the country. The “Switch Before Pitch” fundraiser was set up in September 2020 with the help of former England international goalkeeper David James, and it aims to benefit grassroots football and the environment.
Utilita has recommended ways on how to cut down on electricity costs, and it has emphasized that saving more energy can save more money in the long term. Turning the heating down by one degree can save a starting line-up £880 - enough to buy a full kit, training equipment, trophies and a first-aid kit.
James has done his part to promote the campaign. He shows support for his hometown team, Welwyn Garden City FC, and says that saving energy is important if teams wish to have more financial security and the ability to play games.
“Using tangible examples of what saving energy can buy, such as gloves or a pair of bibs, is smart. Poor or missing equipment can be the difference between a game being played or not at grassroots level, so affording everything a team needs is crucial,” he told the F.A.’s website.
Bill Bullen, the CEO of Utilita Energy, backs the campaign to succeed. He has taken into account how many local clubs have struggled to run during the pandemic and lockdowns, and he hopes that the project can be continued for years to come.
“The cheapest, and greenest, energy is the energy we don’t use, and we hope the Switch Before Pitch campaign enables today’s households, and bill payers of the future – to save money by using and wasting less energy,” Bullen says.
“As an energy company, we are seeing the struggles first-hand and want to do everything in our power to help. This will free up money for the things people love most. In this case, it’s football.”
Grassroots clubs are encouraged to use #SwitchBeforePitch on social media and in advertising.