Football fears - “Knock-on effects will make Wales less active, less healthy and with fewer opportunities for future generations”

The recommencement of football at a national level has been welcomed by many, but without further support for football clubs at the grass roots level, many fear for the future of the game.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Health and Finance, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, has expressed concern over the “knock-on effects” should local clubs start to close.

While footballers in the top tiers of the game have been allowed to play competitively, clubs in the lower tiers are not yet able to, and the Llangefni Town team manager has expressed concern for the “effect this prolonged absence from playing competitively” will have on his players.

Holyhead Hotspur first team manager reports that local children have “lost the desire they had before lockdown to be active” and worries for the once “thriving” junior section of the club.

Mr ap Iorwerth says that Welsh Government, in heeding the call for more money, should make this available to the governing body of football in Wales, the Football Association of Wales. In distributing the funds via the national governing body, they will be able to tailor support across clubs or leagues as they see fit, without individual clubs having to compete for funds against hundred of other clubs across many different sports. 

Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Health and Finance, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said,

“The sustainability of sports clubs across Wales is a real concern, and football is just one example.

“Local football clubs are telling me that they are going to disappear without financial support. The knock-on effects will make Wales less active, less healthy and with fewer opportunities for future generations.

“A local sports team is more than the sport itself – it’s about bringing communities together, the health benefits and of course, feeding talent through to higher tiers. Without clubs progressing at the grass roots level, ultimately the national game will suffer.

“It’s important that financial support is made available to governing bodies who can then decide how best to use the money.”

Llangefni Town men’s team manager Chris Roberts said:

“As a club, we, like so many others, are in limbo at the moment as we have no idea when we'll be allowed to play competitive football again. The FAW's hands are tied, really, because they can't give us the ‘OK’ to play competitive games until the Welsh Government meets them halfway and puts the conditions in place to allow that to happen.

“I worry for the effect this prolonged absence from playing competitively will have on not just the physical and mental health of my players and staff, but for clubs across the country, and overall participation in physical activity as well, which is so important for our health and wellbeing, particularly at a time like this.

“Playing competitive sport has been a huge part of our lives since we were young children, so to have that taken away from us at a time where we most need it is very distressing and I hope a resolution can be reached soon to allow us to play or clubs and players will quickly disappear, not just affecting us now, but young boys and girls who want to play football in the future too.”

Holyhead Hotspur first team manager Darren Garmey said:

“We need to see a clear plan of action for the return of competitive sport from Welsh Government, and that the financial support is there to enable it to happen if we can’t have supporters for now. The physical and mental wellbeing of my players and staff is taking a battering because we can’t play competitive games, and there’s no plan that we can see to allow us to return soon.

“We have a thriving junior section at the club, but even there I’ve seen how affected our players have been by months of no competitive games – young children who have lost the desire they had before lockdown to be active and stay healthy through playing sport, whether it be football or not.

“For our senior players, those effects are even greater, as many are feeling the weight of providing for their families through the pandemic on their shoulders too and I’m very worried about the toll not playing competitively is taking on everyone in our sporting community. I don’t think Welsh Government realises how serious this situation is. They need to act to resolve it and do so quickly.”