Grassroots football clubs are a fundamental part of young people’s livelihoods all across the country. Millions of children and teenagers take part in grassroots games, training sessions, and activities every week, and for some it is an opportunity to see friends and escape the comings and goings of every day life.
However, due to the national government lockdowns, of which we have experienced three across the past year, this opportunity has been limited, if not stopped all together, for large periods of time. This not only has an affect on the participants, but also on the grassroots clubs themselves, being forced not to operate for such a long period of time, meaning in some instances these clubs would lose a lot of income.
I spoke to Bobby Bowry, former Crystal Palace footballer, and current Director of Player Development at Volenti Academy – which runs both football and educational programmes, about the way the government guidelines had affected his academy teams. “We’ve put on online zoom sessions… the BTEC boys are a little bit tougher with the strength and conditioning training. Wet set them different runs each week – 1k, 3k, 5k, then they send us their times and we have that data.”
Even now, having come out of any sort of national lockdowns, the guidelines still pose issues to the academy; “Even though everyone has these lateral flow checks, we still, in our sessions, have thermometer checks and obviously the hand sanitisers to keep everything safe for everyone.”