Doncaster MP Ed Miliband throws his support behind city's grassroots football

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Doncaster MP Ed Miliband has given his backing to grassoots football in the city.

The Doncaster North MP dropped in at Brodsworth Welfare AFC Warriors to meet players and talk about how more can be done to help youngsters in the area through sport.

16-year-old Caitlyn Young chatted to Mr Miliband – and here’s her report.

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Grassroots football serves as the lifeblood of the beautiful game, nurturing talent, promoting inclusivity, and fostering community spirit.

Ed Miliband has given his support to grassroots football in Doncaster.Ed Miliband has given his support to grassroots football in Doncaster.
Ed Miliband has given his support to grassroots football in Doncaster.

However, despite its immense importance, grassroots football often faces significant challenges due to limited resources and inadequate investment.

Ever since our World Cup victory back in 1966, the Lionesses’ win in the Euros last year and the recent successes of the men's teams ,it's no wonder so many girls and boys want to get involved with football in the Doncaster area.

It’s difficult to go into any pub without one elderly gentleman or two reminiscing about the ‘good old days’ and telling stories of how he used to play for a professional team and recanting his youth.

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I’m asking, where are the resources for grassroots football teams? Where are the next generation of great English players coming from? And why aren’t England the No.1 team in the world -are we even serious about becoming the best?

Ed Miliband has given his backing to Brodsworth Welfare Warriors.Ed Miliband has given his backing to Brodsworth Welfare Warriors.
Ed Miliband has given his backing to Brodsworth Welfare Warriors.

On Saturday 13 May, local grassroots football team Brodsworth Welfare Warriors hosted local MP Ed Miliband who was meeting some of the coaches to discuss the problems apparent in grassroots football in Doncaster as well as the cost of living crisis facing local families.

It’s not that local teams can’t find the players: there’s millions of kids out there who would love to play football.

Due to many factors including increases in household bills, lots of children cannot simply afford to play football.

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Simon Young - one of the coaches - explained to me and Ed the story of one child who he assumes picks money off of the ground to afford the £2.50 subs to play each week.

Is this seriously how children in this country are expected to play the ‘great game’ and what about the kids who just cannot even find a few pounds a week to play, how do we help them?Mr Millband said “You’d think that with all the money in the Premier League it would actually filter down to clubs at local level, clearly this is not happening as it should or is portrayed to be in the media”.

The club has tried to contact elements of the Football Association but to little avail, “Yes there is limited funding available”, said Simon Young, grassroots football coach of the U12 boys team.

“There is a real problem however, we are not able to help everyone who wants to play.

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"I hear all the time from boys and girls who would love to play but their parents can’t afford it. It’s free to train with our club, but many think we charge to play so they just don’t come, this is a really sad fact and something we need to change.”

The FA themselves have an incredible amount of teams to administer, they do clearly rely heavily on local coaches and teams, the question is does enough money make its way down to the real grassroots of the game?

Those who are volunteering their time and more importantly to the kids who need help? Not really in the opinion of the coaches that I spoke with.

To even play in a game, the FA requires the club to register your details with them and the team you want to play for.

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There are numerous fees associated with registering and administering a team.

These include: affiliation fees with the FA, insurances, individual player fees as well as league fees.

These costs are what's keeping many young children from being able to access football for free at the grassroots level.

“Unfortunately we have no choice but to charge small fees to those kids that are playing under the FA league system,” said Chris Crowle, chairman of Brodsworth Welfare Warriors.

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A cost of £2.50 a week doesn’t seem so bad when you total up all of those different fees or compare this cost to other out of school clubs.

I was even told that one child offered to pay his registration out of his Christmas money, this was obviously refused by the club but still highlights the stresses on family finances and how desperate kids are to just get to play.

However, every cloud does have a silver lining and grassroots football does clearly have the support of Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster.

The council pays to cut any field that is used for children to play football and other sports on.

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This help is appreciated by the local clubs, but is a small gesture when you consider many local children are still unable to afford to play even though the facilities exist.

Highlighting the need for more investment in the local area into football, Chris told Mr Milliband, “We desperately need the government to step in with a plan and help clubs right here at grassroots level.

"Kids are missing out as there aren’t enough people who want to coach and there are costs to run the club.

"Currently with the cost of living crisis we are seeing youngsters leaving teams as some simply cannot afford the small amount we charge registered players to keep the club operating.

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"We’ve seen a 20% drop off in registrations in the girls section of the club this last 12 months, which is clearly disappointing. We need to fix that”.

The coaches themselves may also be at risk of leaving the game.

Going back to Mr Miliband’s visit - about fifteen minutes after he left I witnessed a parent shouting a significant amount of abuse at the referee of a girls’ match.

This wasn’t even a cup final with emotions running high, just a local friendly between two under 13 girls teams. No wonder we are seeing a drop off in parents/coaches giving their time to the sport when there are ‘supposed fans’ shouting at the referees (many of whom are youngsters themselves).

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Most of these coaches are parents, just ordinary people like you or me and the disrespect often shown towards them by other parents is often what turns them away from coaching children’s football teams, teams then fold and less players make it through the age groups.

So what does this mean for local football teams? It means that while there are children out there wanting to play football, a sport that could possibly keep them out of trouble as well as keep them fit and build lifetime friendships, the teams cannot recruit them as their parents see it as too much money, unaffordable thanks to the cost of living crisis and lack of support from the Football Association.

We clearly need to see more money at the real grassroots level.

Adwick Warriors and Brodsworth Welfare AFC have formed an important link, and from next season the junior section will be known as Brodsworth Welfare Warriors.

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Brodsworth are a club steeped in local history having been formed back in 1912. The partnership means increased access to all levels of football, more games and training sessions for the mens, women’s, boys, girls and disabled teams.

“We are incredibly proud to partner with such a historic local club and expand our facilities and number of teams,” said Chris Crowle, Chairman of Adwick Warriors. “We’ve more space to train, better facilities and now looking for more players in all age groups and abilities to join us on this exciting journey as we grow the club over the coming seasons, if you want to get involved people should message me on 07597 722 665”