In conjunction with the three Trident Leagues – The Isthmian, Northern Premier, and Southern League – Entain Plc has announced the first clubs to receive critical COVID grants under its ‘Pitching In’ grassroots project.
The Pitching In scheme was established last December as a social directive under Entain’s new corporate charter, with the FTSE100 betting association establishing its new “Trident Community Fund” to promote the long-term growth of grassroots football in the UK.
Community Fund Board
Entain formed a Community Fund board, chaired by independent chairman David Emery, the chief editor of the Non-League Paper, in collaboration with the Trident Leagues’ leadership. The board will be in charge of allocating Entain’s grants to local youth football clubs in order to benefit their societies.
The Trident Community Fund Board (TCF Board) announced this morning that 27 amateur clubs from across England and Wales have won grants of up to £4,000 to help them “re-engage with their communities” after being refused the opportunity to play football for the past year.
The Southern League was named the fund’s most generous donor, with 16 of its clubs receiving funds.
Southern League vice-chairman Anthony Hughes said: “It has been phenomenal. We ended up receiving 37 applications and we were overwhelmed by the response. The difficult part was allocating the funds as all the projects were worthy.
“We have tried to reward a variety of applications that are creative and innovative, covering as many different facets of the community as possible. It has been such a difficult time over the last year and everyone is looking forward to being able to get people back together.
“This gives us the first impetus to start looking ahead to when things open up again.”
Meanwhile, the TCF Board of Directors awarded grants to six Northern Premier League clubs – Newcastle Town, Marine FC, Workington, Scarborough FC, Lincoln United, and Pontefract Collieries – to help their neighbourhoods.
Importance of non-league football
Chairman Mark Harris expressed his gratitude for the Northern Premier League’s prompt donations, saying: “The Trident Community Foundation is a great way to help clubs do that as we try to start returning to some degree of normality.
“We have to collectively remind our local communities of the important role non-league football plays, and what better way to do that than through community-facing activities.”
The Isthmian League’s Canvey Island FC, Carshalton Athletic FC, Hastings United FC, Merstham FC, and Whitstable Town have all received contributions from the charity fund.
Much-needed morale boost
Making a pitch The grants, according to Isthmian League chairman Nick Robinson, would offer a much-needed morale boost after the league’s second consecutive season was cut short.
“This is the time to be giving good news,” he said. “It is the honey to go with the bitter pill. One of our fears is that spectators have got out of the habit being involved with local clubs, so we want to be able to breathe life into this – it’s not just football, it’s football with a real community effort.
“The principles behind the various projects are brilliant and it’s vital to engage youngsters, in particular, to get the names of the clubs and leagues into their psyche.”
UK clubs were reminded by Trident Leagues and Entain that there is still time to apply for the next round of Pitching In donations, which the TCF Board is still reviewing.
Entain has set aside £150,000 for the first year of a grassroots programme funding amateur football teams in 2021.
PR Director Simon Clare, Pitching In spokesperson added: “When we launched our Pitching In sponsorship of the Trident Leagues, our ambition was for Entain and our Ladbrokes brand to make a real difference to grassroots and non-elite sport, and we are thrilled to be a founding partner of the Trident Community Fund.
“This is only the start, and yet already we are inspired and enthused by the variety and nature of the projects that have been proposed by the Trident League clubs. We can’t wait to see these projects land in, and make a difference, to communities across England and Wales in the months ahead, at a time when they are needed most.”