Following the Lioness’s victory at the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022, the popularity of football among women and girls has increased, with 73% of grassroots clubs experiencing a surge in demand.
However, a new study from Starling Bank reveals that the cost-of-living crisis is preventing clubs from taking on new players.
Financial Barriers to Grassroots Clubs
The survey of 1,030 grassroots clubs found that the cost of a football kit is the biggest obstacle for recruiting new players, with 72% struggling to fund it. Other financial challenges for clubs include hiring and running facilities (64%), buying equipment (56%), offering affordable subs (41%), and funding training for volunteer coaches (31%).
The cost-of-living crisis has also affected players and their parents. According to a separate survey of 4,500 UK adults commissioned by Starling, over a third of parents (34%) have cut back on spending elsewhere to afford their child’s football training.
Parents are dedicating their time and resources to provide football opportunities, with 21% doing laundry for their child’s club at home, the same amount of carpooling to training and matches, and 7% volunteering to coach their child’s team.
Girl teams, which have historically been underfunded compared to boy teams, are feeling the impact of the cost-of-living crisis more. Girl’s teams are more likely to have gaps in sponsorship funding, with 14% of parents with daughters helping their club find a sponsor, compared to 11% of parents with sons.
Parents are also more likely to ask their daughters to contribute pocket money towards their training than their sons, at 15% vs 11%. Fathers are more likely to devote their time to their child’s club than mothers, with double the amount of volunteering to coach their child’s team (10% vs 5%).
The Benefits of Football
The study also highlights the benefits of football for women and girls.
Almost half of the adult women who play football in a survey of 4,694 adults say they play for fitness (46%) and to socialize (46%), while many play to learn a new skill (40%), boost their confidence (35%), or improve their mental health (33%).
The findings indicate that with more support for grassroots teams, women and girls will take advantage of these opportunities, helping to close the gender participation gap in football.
The Lionesses’ impact on participation
Of the women who have played football in the last year, 58% say they have done so because of the Lionesses. This indicates that participation could increase further as the England women’s team prepares for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.
The game is even more popular among young girls, with 40% playing compared to 50% of boys.
Football is the second most popular extra-curricular activity among children (39%), after swimming (46%).
Introducing ‘Kick On with Starling’
To help reduce costs for grassroots clubs and encourage more women and girls to play football, Starling has launched its ‘Kick On with Starling’ initiative in partnership with Gift of Kit.
The initiative will give £200,000 worth of kit, equipment, and coaching vouchers to grassroots football clubs with existing women’s or girl’s teams or creating a pathway to get more women and girls involved. Clubs can apply for the scheme on the Kick On with Starling page.
Jill Scott MBE, former England player and Starling Bank ambassador said, “The Lionesses didn’t just bring it home for England, we brought it home to inspire more women and girls to play the game. Grassroots pitches are where that legacy really begins. The cost of living crisis is worrying for clubs everywhere, but it’s amazing to see how hard parents and volunteer coaches are working to create opportunities for women and girls to play. I wish I could thank them all.”
Mark Day, art director at Starling Bank said, “In six years our in-house creatives have gone from launching a brand new challenger bank, to concepting sponsored kits, creating pitch-side ads and working with football legends. Our team has grown and our style has evolved but our brief has remained the same – to disrupt, which we’re now doing in the football space.”
The bank, which has offices in London, Southampton and Cardiff, is also front of shirt sponsor for Southampton Women’s FC and is funding a programme to get more women coaches in the region FA accreditation.
Starling also donated £28,000 to grassroots clubs across the UK after the Lioness’s win, and works closely with Sports Aid to champion the female players of tomorrow.