Covid and cup runs: The financial and mental health impacts on grassroots football

Non-league clubs across Gloucestershire were made aware of their Buildbase FA Trophy Third Round Qualifying fixtures on Monday afternoon.

After beating Carlton Town 2-0, Evesham United were rewarded with a home tie against Leek Town, a side one level above the Robins.

Meanwhile, Cinderford Town overcame fellow Gloucestershire side Mangotsfield and will now travel to Berkshire, to face Bracknell Town.

Both sides received £3,000 prize money for their respective victories in the Second Round Qualifying, and will be playing for £3,750 in the next round on Saturday, October 31.

Whilst Borussia Dortmund were asking Manchester United for a fee worth over £100m for Jadon Sancho a matter of days ago, this seemingly measly total of £3,000 is crucial to thousands of livelihoods across the whole of the UK.

The Government’s announcement that fans were set to return to non-league grounds in September was met with a collective sigh of relief from professional, semi-pro and amateur football clubs alike.

After all, the Coronavirus pandemic had seen crowds banished from all stadiums for almost six months.

However, more than four weeks on from that announcement, clubs are still hanging on for dear life, with restricted capacities and reduced prize funds causing irreversible damage.

Cinderford Town will be just one of 146 clubs competing for a place in the First Round Proper and the £3,750 kitty – and Foresters boss Steve Cleal is more than aware of the financial impacts of a cup run.

READ: “They Will Fancy Their Chances Of Causing An Upset At Home.” FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round Fixtures Revealed For Gloucestershire Sides

“It’s an important game for all involved and I’m sure both ourselves and Bracknell would benefit from the prize money for winning the tie.

“Especially with all that’s going on in the world at the moment.”

Gloucestershire Live writer and Gloucestershire football expert Jon Palmer believes a cup run can have an incredibly long-lasting impact on smaller non-league clubs.

“The good thing is that non-league clubs at that level can still let fans in.

“But any bonus prize money is invaluable to semi-pro clubs,” explained Palmer. “It can keep them going for years if they have a good run, like in the FA Cup for example.”

As well as the financial impact of gate receipts, the benefits of football on mental health have been proved time and time again.

Evesham United manager Neil Hunt expressed his thoughts on the matter.

“Looking forward to football on a Saturday is so important.

“It’s a big part of our community and special to Evesham.”

Evesham boss Neil Hunt after the Robins’ 2-0 FA Trophy win over Carlton Town.

A second wave, and ultimately second large-scale lockdown, would be catastrophic for clubs and fans alike. The correlation between a clubs’ finances and it’s fans’ wellbeing is clear to see, and shows just why grassroots football is in such a vulnerable position right now.

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