There are 40,000 amateur football teams in the UK – but they could all disappear

Climate change experts have warned participation in grassroots football could be on the verge of extinction by the year 2080 – due to extreme weather linked to a rise in greenhouse gases.

Weather conditions such as rain, snow, ice, and extreme heat made it impossible for amateur matches to be played last year.

Every season, there are five cancellations or postponements for amateur football clubs in the country due to severe weather.

According to research by The Climate Coalition, seven matches are cancelled or postponed in Wales each season, which is the worst affected region of the UK. This week marks the beginning of Great Big Green Week.

Experts are now concerned that participation in the amateur game could end if there is not a clearer plan by government on how to address climate change.

Each amateur football club has an average of five matches cancelled or postponed per season due to severe weather
Each amateur football club has an average of five matches cancelled or postponed per season due to severe weather

Extreme weather has been linked to changes in the climate by experts at The Met Office and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Fiona Dear, Head of Campaigns at The Climate Coalition, said: “Top football players may be global superstars, but they represent only the tip of the pyramid.

“Grassroots football remains the lifeblood of the game and a key way that many people keep fit, socialise and stay close to their community – that’s what makes our findings so alarming.

“Extreme weather conditions linked to climate change are already having a disruptive impact on the grassroots game, but we’ve also got deep concern about future participation levels.

“With The Met Office predicting that the UK could have between 70 and 100 percent more rain by 2080 – under 60 years away – it’s not beyond reason that participation in the grassroots game could all but vanish by that point.”

Research of 2,000 adults commissioned by The Climate Coalition found more than eight in ten adults have had a grassroots game they were involved with affected by adverse weather.

Extreme weathers can cause pitch deterioration - whether it's too hot, too cold or too wet
Extreme weathers can cause pitch deterioration – whether it’s too hot, too cold or too wet

Six in ten report an increase in extreme weather putting paid to their weekend games, with 51% struggling to find refs who will officiate in the rain or freezing cold.

More than half (55%) report pitch quality deteriorating when the weather is extreme – either too hot, too cold or too wet.

Another 51% believe their crowd numbers decrease when they play in bad weather.

OnePoll polled 33% of respondents to worry about the future of the game due to extreme weather conditions cancelling or changing the matchday experience.

Brits believe that the future weather will put the grassroots game at twice the risk than the professional one.

Just under 40% of ten (38%) want to see the government do more to protect the game from the dangers of climate change.

Fiona Dear added: “This is why Great Big Green Week is so important.

“It’s the fight that unites. People from all walks of life – no matter who they are, where they’re from or which football team they support – are putting differences aside to celebrate a love for nature and the environment.

“They’re also sending a clear message to the Prime Minister ahead of the United Nations COP26 climate talks in November: we care about climate change, and we need you to deliver a clear plan to limit a rise in temperatures and to stop floods, heatwaves and droughts getting even worse.

“Football is one part of British life that would benefit hugely from improved Government climate policies.”

How weather affects grassroots football:

  • There are an estimated 40,000 amateur football teams in the UK;
  • 58 percent of people involved with amateur football teams say their team’s matches are cancelled or postponed because of adverse weather linked to climate change, leaving 23,300 teams affected;

  • An average of 5.39 games postponed or cancelled per club gives 125,048, divided by two to account for each game involving two teams (and removing any potential duplication), which equates to 62,524 matches overall.

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