WAIVED affiliation fees, subsidised equipment and support for pitch maintenance are set to be among the benefits felt by clubs at Steps 3 and 4 in light of Pitching In’s commitment to honouring this season’s sponsorship investment in full.
Fewer than 20 per cent of scheduled matches have been played in a Trident League season ravaged by the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the curtailment of the campaign is expected to be ratified by the FA Council on March 18.
But the decision will not affect the financial input from Pitching In, a grassroots and non-elite sports investment programme set up by Ladbrokes with the support of its owner Entain, which is set to have a substantial impact for member clubs.
“It makes a huge difference,” said Anthony Hughes, vice-chairman of the Pitching In Southern League. “We want to take some of the burdens off our clubs and ensure they can all benefit in the same way.
“That could be through providing equipment, clothing, match balls or reimbursing some of the fees for registering players. We halved affiliation fees this season because of what happened last year. We are considering going one step further and waiving affiliation fees next season.
“There are a number of things we will be able to do which we wouldn’t have been able to had Pitching In not honoured their full support.”
Clubs in the Pitching In Isthmian League are also likely to see a waiving of the next round of affiliation fees, due in June, along with subsidised ground improvements to ensure stadiums are safe and welcoming places to attend from the summer.
“We hope to provide funding for pitch works or weed maintenance – having terraces and everything else sprayed so clubs can have a good pitch and good surrounds come August,” said league chairman Nick Robinson.
“Our message is ‘let’s work on it and make sure spectators are confident coming back’.
“If we didn’t have this (sponsorship deal), clubs would be in a far worse position. We will make sure all 82 clubs benefit.”
Supplying free footballs is among the options being considered by the Pitching In Northern Premier League, whose chairman Mark Harris said: “At a time when there is a lot of uncertainty at club level around sponsorship, I’m really pleased we have the certainty to maintain the support that goes to our clubs.
“This decision reflects the fact Pitching In understand the value of developing a longterm relationship with us, for which we are hugely grateful.”
Confirmation of Pitching In’s sponsorship commitment follows the first allocation of Trident Community Foundation grants, which have been awarded to 27 clubs in Steps 3 and 4 with more to come.
Pitching In ambassador Stuart Pearce said: “Our brilliant Non-League clubs, who are at the heart of their communities, need financial support now more than ever. It takes a lot of money to run a football club and make it thrive. Pitching In honouring this sponsorship will make a real difference.”
Ladbrokes PR director Simon Clare added: “When the decision was made to curtail the season, we had no hesitation in informing the three leagues that our sponsorship commitment would be honoured in full. Along with the great work of the Trident Community Foundation, it will ensure money is flowing through to clubs at this very challenging time.”
Ladbrokes, with the support of owner Entain, has launched a multi-million pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sport. The programme includes a flagship partnership with The Isthmian, Northern Premier and Southern Leagues, as well as a partnership with the UK sports charity SportsAid. For more, visit https://entaingroup.com/ sustainability/pitching-in/