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The Grassroots Fund: Supporting Grassroots Heroes

With the Covid-19 crisis set to drag on into 2021, it’s never been more important to support grassroots football.

Our 'Stay of Play' research shows that one in 10 clubs fear they may be forced to close as a result of the pandemic.

Worrying days indeed.

That’s why we’ve got together with Team Grassroots to set up the Grassroots Fund – powered by our Energy High 5 campaign – to help clubs the best we can during these uncertain times.

The Fund offers no-nonsense, no-strings-attached support for grassroots clubs and leagues and for all those magnificent volunteers who work tirelessly to keep football going, underpinning the values of the grassroots game in local communities.

 

Described as “the voice of the grassroots football community’, Team Grassroots have been around for seven years. From humble beginnings, they now work hand in hand with the likes of The Football Association, Show Racism the Red Card and Fans For Diversity/Kick It Out.

Paul Kirton, Founder and Managing Director of Team Grassroots, said:

“When we first started we were laughed at by football’s governing bodies. People thought there was no need for an independent grassroots organisation – but 7 million hits in a week proves otherwise.
“These days we’re involved in multiple campaigns with The FA and other footballing stakeholders and we also discuss upcoming policies relevant to grassroots football.”

Team Grassroots came to our attention when we were compiling our State Of Play Report on the devastating impact of Covid-19 on the grassroots football community -  and we immediately hit it off.

A football match made in heaven, you might say!

Paul recalled:

“I was contacted by Utilita to help with some stats and, when I asked why, they said it was because they cared about the state of grassroots football.
“I made a throwaway comment, saying: ‘If Utilita really mean that, then let’s get round the table and set up a fund for those who need help most.
“I didn’t think it would result in anything, but 24 hours later Jem Maidment (Chief Marketing Officer) got in touch and I met with him and James Heyes (Partnerships Manager).
“From the very first conversation, you could tell Utilita got it.”

Grassroots sponsorship is nothing new, although normally it’s a set of balls or a snazzy new strip that teams are crying out for.

But keeping clubs Covid-safe is a costly business (particularly when fundraising and sponsorship has dried up), so Utilita and Team Grassroots are helping out by putting together essential COVID support packs containing disposable face masks and gloves, hand gels, wipes, visors and a thermometer gun.

Already we have supplied free packs for all the London FA leagues - and Cornwall could be next in line...unless the vaccine dramatically changes things.

We're also sponsoring the Grassroots Hero and Thank You awards, recognising the army of club volunteers who willingly give up their time to keep clubs and their communities thriving. We’ve even put a light-hearted spin on things by giving a shout-out to all those brilliant Football Mums!

Paul added:

“It’s easy to forget that, with 11 million people involved, grassroots football has the largest movement of volunteers in this country.
“There are some countries that don’t even have 11 million people!
“Because of Covid, clubs have been unable to raise money through fundraisers and tournaments, but at the same time they’ve been burdened with the added cost of risk assessment and keeping their Covid hygiene up to date.
“This is a time to put out a helping hand, not kick them when they’re down – and Utilita get that.”

18/12/2020

Proud to Power Glasgow City FC

We're proud to be a partner of record-breaking Scottish Women’s Premier League club Glasgow City FC for at least the next two seasons.

The Utilita logo will feature on the back of City’s first-team home and away kits – plus we’re sponsoring their Player-of-the-Month Award – and central to the partnership will be our Energy High 5 movement.

Glasgow City’s founders, Laura Montgomery and Carol Anne Stewart, grew up at a time when it was impossible for girls to play football and both had to wait until they were adults to don their boots and take up the sport they love.

The two women continued to run the club as volunteers and, over the last two decades, have helped change the landscape of the game in Scotland, inspiring girls to believe they can be whatever they want in life.

And meanwhile the trophy cabinet has been creaking under the weight of silverware!

Not only are City the most successful women’s club in Scotland, having won 14 SWPL 1 titles – including 13 in a row –  and lifted more Scottish Cups than any other side, they run 12 Academy teams across all age-groups.

They have twice graced the quarter-finals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League, while five current and six former City players featured in the Scotland squad that reached their first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals in 2019.

It’s a club that is really going places and, just this month, Laura Montgomery was announced as Glasgow City’s first ever Chief Executive on a full-time basis.

Welcoming Glasgow City into the Utilita Football family, our Chief Marketing Officer, Jem Maidment, said:

“Glasgow is a hotbed for football and it’s a city Utilita has strong links with.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering Glasgow City FC – a club with a rich history, one of the pioneer clubs in terms of promoting the women’s game in Scotland, and a team with European pedigree as well.
“We’re looking forward to engaging with the club and its supporters and we wish them all the best for what is shaping up to be an exciting season.”

Applauding Utilita for getting behind all levels of football, Laura Montgomery added:

“Utilita’s backing of the game we all love stems across every level, from professional to grassroots, female and male, and this is wonderful to see.
“We’re delighted to be a club Utilita want to support as we continue to grow on and off the pitch.
“We look forward to working together over the next few years to empower the next generation of women and girls to play the game.”

11/12/2020

Switch Before Pitch

Over the weekend we launched a new initiative called Switch Before Pitch with the help of former England goalkeeper and environmentalist David James.

The aim of Switch Before Pitch is simple: To save thousands of grassroots football clubs – who have been badly hit by the coronavirus crisis - from extinction. Much like our Energy High Five movement (which has already helped over two million households save money by being more energy efficient), Switch Before Pitch will encourage grassroots football players and their families to be more energy efficient, save money and help to keep their clubs afloat.

Underpinning the campaign is our State of Play Report which highlights the dire situation that thousands of grassroots clubs are facing (with a staggering 4000 at risk of extinction) and the impact this will have on young people and communities across the UK.

We’ve already seen that this has serious issue has struck a chord across the UK, with Good Morning Britain, Sky Sports News, Sky News, and BBC News featuring the campaign and its ambassador, David James, whilst the national print media has also given Switch Before Pitch it’s support too.

What is Switch Before Pitch?

We’ve supported grassroots football over the last 4 years and understand the vital role they play in communities across the UK. We’re now taking action to support them further as they face the biggest crisis they have ever faced. Based on the findings of our State of Play report, which you can read HERE, a staggering 10% of the UK’s 40,000-plus grassroots football clubs said they will struggle to survive the next 12 months as a direct result of the coronavirus crisis.

Switch Before Pitch – with former Liverpool and England goalkeeper David James as its ambassador - will draw attention to their plight, give them a voice and persuade key stakeholders to act.

But we also want clubs to help themselves, that’s why we’re focusing on energy saving – much like our already established EnergyHigh5 movement.

We want to educate clubs and players and show them how much kit they could afford if they follow tips like switching the heating down one degree. This saves £80 a year per players and £880 per team – enough to buy a football strip (£250), training tops (£180), first aid bag (£25), ten training footballs (£80), two goals (£250) and team trophies (£95).

Why is it so important?

We’ll hand you over to Switch Before Pitch ambassador, David James:

“The Prime Minister Boris Johnson said only this week that ‘sports clubs are the life and soul of our communities’ - and he is right. Grassroots football clubs play such an important role and everything that can be done to support their existence right now, should be done.

“This campaign will help clubs focus on saving and raising money, but most importantly, it will educate everyone it reaches about the simple ways we can all use less energy wherever we are, which will impact our pockets, and most importantly, our planet.

“Using tangible examples of what saving energy can buy, such as bibs, or a pair of new goals, is smart – poor or missing equipment can mean the difference between a game being played or not at grassroots level, so affording everything a team needs is crucial.”

And it’s not just about children playing football and clubs hoping to discover the next Raheem Sterling or Harry Kane. It’s about the health benefits – physical and mental – of regular exercise, the social element, learning life skills and pitching in to help each other out.

What’s more, millions of adults benefit from the above too – whether they’re enthusiastic amateur players, or just keen for some social interaction in the bar while watching a game.

For us, Switch Before Pitch is simply an extension of the great work already undertaken in our partnerships with football clubs and community organisations across the UK.

How can I get involved?

If you’re a parent with children at a grassroots club, check out the Switch Before Pitch website page HERE to see how you can back the campaign. The same goes if you play adult football. Even if you don’t, what’s stopping you from giving a little bit of your time to help a vital community asset?

28/09/2020

4,000 Football Clubs Fear Closure

We can reveal today the shocking reality the UK’s grassroots football clubs are facing due to the pandemic - with 10% fearing closure in a matter of months. We commissioned a new ‘State of Play’ report speaking to football clubs across the UK, to understand the impact of Covid-19 on grassroots football.

We’ve teamed up with former England star David James to unveil the report, which paints a startling picture in these unprecedented times - laying bare the impact these clubs’ closure will have on players, communities and families who rely on them.

The report also reiterates the numerous benefits, the UK’s 40,000+ grassroots clubs have on mental and physical health - and the high cost that the state will pay, should thousands disappear.

As a leading supporter of British football from grassroots to Premier League – we want to shine a light on the plight of the UK’s amateur clubs and support them when they need it most. We’re aiming to help teams, players and communities save millions of pounds by cutting their energy wastage, as part of our Switch Before Pitch awareness campaign.

Our State of Play Report reveals the financial impact of Covid-19 on grassroots football clubs, with clubs’ incomes reducing by 46% on average, with one in 10 clubs losing 90-100% of their income. Parents’ financial struggles will get in the way of players returning to clubs too, as 17% say they can’t afford equipment such as football boots, and 20% say they can’t afford to return their child to their grassroots club at all.

At the centre of the campaign is a list of free and simple ways to save energy, and what those savings equate to in terms of new football equipment, such as bibs, footballs, and cones through to team strips and new goals.

Paul Kirton, Founder of Team Grassroots, played an important part in designing the education assets for the campaign. He explains what level of hardship grassroots teams are facing today and why so many will embrace the campaign:

“The two main areas of focus for grassroots clubs today is safeguarding in a new Covid-19 world, and fundraising, to make up for all the lost income, and extra investment in safeguarding measures they have been required to make.”
     
“Fundraising and saving money isn’t just the responsibility of the club bosses or the team manager. Players and supporters know this only too well, but sometimes it’s hard to identify ways to save or fundraise – this campaign will ensure every club has inspiration, ideas and ways to save at their fingertips.”

Our CEO and conservationist, Bill Bullen, had this to say on the link between energy and grassroots clubs:

“The report provides a snapshot of the fact that although many clubs were finding it tough to survive before Covid-19, this latest storm has created a near-impossible challenge for too many of them. All individuals and communities are experiencing the impact of Covid-19 – as an energy company that uses technology to help households take control of their energy usage, we are seeing the struggles first-hand and doing everything in our power to help.

“So, it’s really important to save money where we can. 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. This will free up finances for the things that people love most – in this case, football!”

Want more info on Switch Before Pitch? You can visit the campaign page here.

28/09/2020

Save Energy. Get Kit.

Join former international footballer David James to help your grassroots football club save money, make money, and win with Utilita’s Switch Before Pitch campaign.

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We’ve forged partnerships with more than 25 clubs across England, Scotland and Wales in both the men’s and women’s game.

Whether you’re there in person or watching on TV, you’ll see us in the thick of the action. But beyond that, we’re powering community projects, nurturing the grassroots game and supporting disability football.

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The road to Wembley starts here.

The Utilita Kids Cup & Girls Cups are Britain’s biggest youth football tournaments. Organised by the English Football League, the competition sees over 22,000 junior footballers compete for the chance to represent their local professional club and play at Wembley Stadium in front of thousands of fans.

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