The Scottish Youth Football Association (SYFA) have announced that they have received a donation of £300,000 from Scottish football philanthropist James Anderson.
The funding boost, which comes through the Scottish Football Partnership Trust, is predicted to benefit over 4,000 youth teams and 60,000 players ahead of next season.
Speaking to the SFP Trust’s official website, SYFA chairman John McCrimmond said: “We would like to express the utmost gratitude to James Anderson for this outstanding gesture and, of course, to the Scottish Football Partnership for their ongoing support.”
The donation comes to the SYFA after the SFP Trust identified that support would be needed to cover additional costs that are presented due to the need for increased safety procedures.
These safety procedures include: PPE, medical kits, hand sanitisers, training kit and footballs.
The SFP Trust and the SYFA have already highlighted that this funding will cover costs of membership/affiliation fees for teams that compete in small-sided and eleven-aside leagues, who have had their season disrupted.
The SYFA cover the majority of age groups in Scottish youth football, up to under-21 level, which means there are over 4,000 teams and over 62,000 players who play under the SYFA banner.
“The ability to provide an entire season of SYFA membership free of charge to every team in Scotland will go some way to relieving this burden," McCrimmond said.
The majority of the SYFA operational costs are covered by membership fees which are normally payed by youth teams.
An earlier SYFA statement said: “The donation will help alleviate increased costs that clubs and parents face due to the new safety measures associated with Covid-19 pandemic and also support coaching, sports first aid and grassroots volunteers." the statement concluded.
The SYFA chairman also expressed how important it is to get youth players back playing football: “Whilst the spotlight has been on the professional game, it is at grassroots level that the vast majority of football in this country”.
“Last season we had more than 60,000 registered players who haven’t been able to play football for four months now.”
“This money will help ensure that we get as many of those players back on the pitch as soon as possible.”
Importantly, the SFA have confirmed a staged approach that will allow for the grassroots sides to return to competitive football by late Autumn.
The four-stage approach is as follows:
Stage 1 - Return to restricted contact training for adults.
Stage 2 - Full return to contact training.
Stage 3 - Local inter club match activity (including local friendly matches).
Stage 4 - Return to affiliated competitions.
While no official return dates have been confirmed, the SFA are hopeful of a return to full competition by late Autumn, with mid-October being identified as the earliest possible date.
Thomas McKeown, Scottish FA Board Director and Chair of the JRG Grassroots Sub Group said: “The Scottish FA has been encouraged to see so many clubs engaging with their local community, enabling people to return safely to a restricted programme of football training and activity.”
“As we continue to plan ahead, the Grassroots sub group of the Scottish FA Coronavirus Joint Response Group has created tentative plans providing a framework to inform Affiliated National Associations and Leagues of the steps which could allow a return to competition to take place, given any future approval by the Scottish Government.”
The planned changes could see competitive grassroots football return for the first time since all football was indefinitely suspended in March 2020.
McKeown went onto add: “It must be stressed that the return to competition requires many factors to be considered and will be predicated on the continued progress being made in Scotland against the virus.
"Therefore, dates are only indicative and are subject to change based on public health guidance. Each stage will also be based upon the continued easing of restrictions and with approval of the Scottish Government.”
“Whilst there are no specific dates available at this point, the Scottish FA will work with Affiliated National Associations and Leagues via the Grassroots Sub Group to identify how the stages above could be implemented and what protocols will be required.”
“The Scottish FA would like to thank everyone involved in the game for continuing to support the phased return of football and for following the current guidelines in place.”
With a phased approach now in place, these potential changes offer a glimmer of hope for grassroots players across the country, who have been starved of competitive action for over four months.