AN OPEN LETTER

To:
Ian Maxwell & John McCrimmond
Chief Executive & Chairperson of the Scottish Football Association and Scottish Youth Football Association respectively

From:
The Giffnock Soccer Centre Committee
Wednesday 10 March, 2021

AN OPEN LETTER

SUMMER FOOTBALL MUST BE CENTRAL TO THE PATH OUT OF LOCKDOWN FOR THE GRASSROOTS GAME

Dear Ian & John

As one of Scotland’s largest grassroots football clubs we welcome yesterday’s announcement from the First Minister to allow more young players to return to non-contact sport.

However, we continue to be concerned that the long-term future of community football has not been prioritised. As our representative bodies, we sincerely hope both SFA and SYFA have been lobbying hard on grassroots and youth football’s behalf with Scottish Government and other decision-makers. While we do not doubt people are under pressure and working hard, as a member organisation we can no longer be silent over the lack of transparency. In particular there is little or no information provided to grassroots 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 – as representative bodies, do you agree or not that grassroots clubs must now be consulted over how we now emerge from what has been an existential crisis for many?

As communities across Scotland rally together to find a constructive and safe way out of the pandemic, it’s vital the voices of young people who play our national sport are heard and their futures safeguarded. All too often community football has been an afterthought, or not even worthy of a mention at all, in communications from the SFA and Scottish Youth Football Association with provisions made reactively, rather than mapping out a clear vision for what our youth players require in the months and years ahead. We agree that the priority should always be the safety of players and understanding what the emerging data tells us about the safety of outdoor contact sports is key.

The SFA’s own study ‘Measuring the Value of Football Participation in Scotland’ (March 2019) reported the wider societal benefits of our national game. It noted 41% of all youths Under 16 in Scotland play football, with broader impacts of football as a whole including a ‘healthcare saving of £144 million from football participation’ among many others.’[1] Many reports have emerged in recent days indicating activity levels have dropped markedly among young people across the UK during lockdown and that many grassroots sports clubs may not return.

As a football community we need our governing bodies to work together to help prevent this longterm damage within our communities. This action needs to be proactive, practical, collaborative and strategic. We need planning to secure a meaningful return to community football underpinned by strong engagement and clear communication.

On behalf of the 1200 young players of Giffnock Soccer Centre and the hundreds of thousands more across Scotland we are today calling for:

  • 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 reclaims as much of the playing time they have lost as possible
  • clear 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 an uncertain future
  • an explanation of how going forward you 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”.

We seek an urgent meeting to discuss these points and discuss how we can work together to safeguard the futures of the next of community footballers.

Best

The Giffnock Soccer Centre Committee

[1] SCOTTISH FA UEFA GROW SOCIAL RETURN ON INVESTMENT MODEL, March 2019.

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