Tooting & Mitcham Football club

Report on non-league football finds 8,000 clubs at risk of closure

A recent report on non-league and grassroots football found 2,600 clubs had folded and 8,000 clubs across the UK are at risk of closure over the 2022/23 season.

The challenge facing clubs is striking a balance between remaining financially sustainable while being affordable to fans.

Tooting & Mitcham United Football Club are among many facing the cost of living crisis.

Club secretary Jackie Watkins said: “We don’t want to pass all the cost increase onto the fans so we are having to absorb some of the cost.

“One of the main issues is the cost of electricity. With the days getting shorter clubs are going to be using there floodlights a lot more.”

Household energy bills increased by a record 54% in April and are going to rise substantially again in October.

Non-league football clubs are going to need to have a rethink about their finances since electricity to power the floodlights and the travel costs for players and fans are increasing.

Watkins added that kick-off times being brought forward were being discussed as a solution to cut down on electricity.

She said: “It wouldn’t make a difference for Tooting and Mitcham as their main football is between the hours of 5pm and 10pm.

“We have three sets of floodlights and rent out pitches to the local community. 

“This is by far our biggest cost, and we are looking to save money on floodlights but still the serve community with what they want.

“We are looking to get help to turn the lighting into LEDS but any funding from the FA or Football Foundation is not going to come quickly enough to take advantage of it this season.”

The impact of soaring costs from the cost of living crisis on football clubs at the lower end of the football pyramid is far greater than those at the top end.

Co-owner and head of club development at Walton & Hersham Football Club, Thomas Bradbury said: “Whilst the club weren’t too affected by bills as they rent the ground with the local council, they were aware of the impact on the fans.

“With the club being successful having achieved back-to-back promotions, this has brought about some changes in structure particularly with ticket prices.

“We know how much of a positive impact football has on people’s lives so we have only increased the ticket prices by a pound or two.” 

With it being important to continue to generate income, cup competitions can be a great source of revenue for clubs in the non-league.

Bradbury added: “The FA Cup run has been a particularly important income stream and we have so far come through four qualifying rounds.” 

Both Tooting & Mitcham and Walton & Hersham football clubs are just two examples of what clubs in the lower echelons of the football pyramid are facing.

Image credit: Tooting & Mictham

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