What is the social and economic value of grassroots football?

Posted on: August 9th, 2019 | by Laura Murdoch | No Comments

Last Updated on: 11th January 2022, 04:50 pm

Football is the most popular sport in the world and is a major part of global life. It has a huge number of players and supporters and has a great economic impact. You can even study it at the University Campus of Football Business. But football isn’t just about the professionals. There are estimated to be 12 million people playing grassroots football in England and over 8 million of those are adults. The FA spends approximately £1 million every week in supporting the grassroots game. This year they investigated the social and economic value of the adult grassroots game. They discovered that grassroots football was contributing more to the nation’s economy and wellbeing than other amateur sport.


FA Grassroots Football Report

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The Report

To get a wide view of the sport, the FA’s report looked into adult grassroots football in England and canvassed around 9000 participants. They asked a variety of different players that included both male and female players. The following is a list of everyone considered for the report.

  • Adults aged 18+
  • England Residents
  • Regular football players (played in the past month)
  • Males
  • Females
  • BAME
  • Young (18-24)
  • Mid (25-55)
  • Older (>55)
  • Lower Income
  • Higher Income
  • 11-a-side
  • 5/6/7-a-side
  • Casual kick-about with friends/family in the park


Grassroots football economy boost

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Boosting the Economy

Everyone knows that professional football is a great boost to the world’s economy but the FA were keen to look at the economic effect that grassroots level football has. This is what their report uncovered:

  • The average grassroots player spends an average of £326 per year.
  • This amounts to a direct economic value of £2.050 billion per year.
  • And a tax contribution of £410 million per year.

The economic impact of the sport was worked out by analysing the expenses that are necessary to enjoy and play football. Meaning all of the goods and services utilised by each individual in grassroots football. This includes football kit, training equipment, membership fees, pitch hire, training, and socialising with their team.

The report shows that, based on average spend, 11-a-side football has the largest expenditure and spends the most on socialising. Unsurprisingly, casual players spent the least per year but did have a range of outgoings to play. Whilst grassroots football might not have the income of the professional game, this report shows just how important the game is to the country at every level.


Grassroots football social value

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Social Benefits

The financial benefits are great but players aren’t signing up to their local team to improve the economy. Football is a great thing in terms of health benefits and offers plenty of socialising opportunities. But the FA wanted to quantify those benefits and see how they compared to other sports players and people who didn’t participate in sports.

The FA asked the participants of the survey to place themselves on a scale for four separate categories. These were: happiness; self-reported health; confidence; and trust. The second part of the Quality of Life impact dealt with a personal assessment regarding the impact of sport on specific aspects of their wellbeing and mental health. These six categories covered the impact on anxiety levels, quality of sleep, happiness, self-confidence, concentration, and motivation levels.

The results showed that grassroots football players are generally experiencing higher levels of wellbeing.

  • Grassroots football players reported higher levels in all 4 areas compared to people who play no sports
  • Grassroots football players reported higher levels in general health, confidence, and trust than people who play other sports
  • Compared to people who play other sports, grassroots football players had a stronger belief that football had improved their confidence, concentration, motivation, and social mixing
  • Female players reported the highest levels of self-confidence as a result of playing football
  • Lower-income groups experienced a greater quality of life benefits from football compared to those in higher-income groups
  • 11-a-side players reported higher levels of happiness and health compared to other types of football

Basically, playing football has a positive influence on your quality of life and general wellbeing. The results are higher than other sports and significantly higher than people who play no sports. It has the potential to help with a player’s self-confidence, decrease their anxiety, and improve the quality of their sleep. So, why isn’t everyone giving it a go?

Grassroots football helping the NHS

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Helping the NHS

Obviously, all of the Quality of Life benefits are great for the individual players but the FA also looked into how much of a difference this improvement in health was helping society as a whole. Within their report, the FA worked out that the improvements to a player’s health would have a benefit to the NHS. After all, if a player is healthier and has a greater sense of wellbeing, they will visit their doctor less frequently. The report predicted the savings that would be made because of this reduction in visits to the GP.

The value was predicted using an estimated figure of the health cost savings for each grassroots player. According to the study, playing football regularly is associated with a reduction in medical costs of £6.92 per person each year. Taking into account the number of grassroots players currently in England, this equates to an annual saving of £43.5 million.

In Summary

I admit it’s not much of a surprise but the FA study has finally quantified the positive impact that grassroots football has on its players and the country as a whole. Grassroots football is all about community spirit and allowing everyone to experience the sport. It has the power to inspire confidence in people, improve their physical health, and help their mental wellbeing.

Now that the report has been published, the FA will work with its partners to ensure that the grassroots game continues to deliver these benefits. This will include undertaking demand-led analysis in each local authority in England to prioritise investment.

To read the FA’s report in full, you can download it from their website.

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