Football clubs from around Salford say lower-league teams have suffered, as the country emerges from a second national Coronavirus lockdown.
With Greater Manchester now moving into Tier 3, Sunday league football will be allowed to return.
Swinton Football Club has more than 30 volunteers that assist with approximately 340 children between the ages of four and 17 years old. But lockdown has affected the club.
“There’s been a few clubs that have lost teams. We know that because we lost three teams this season of different varying age groups,” said Mark Airey, Treasurer of Swinton FC.
“As a head count per team, starting this season we were 50 players down on the previous season.
“We have also lost from the start of the season we have lost a few players because they’ve just totally lost interest in not being able to go training, not being able to go on a regular basis.”
Mark says that the lockdowns have mainly affected their junior teams who “just fell more in love with their Xbox” due to a summer of lockdown restrictions.
He said: “I think for me the whole thing about Covid as a football club, financially it affects us but it more so affects the well-being of the kids and not being able to have that sporting activity.
“Not having clear direction, is it on, is it not, how many people can attend, how many people can’t, so it’s really just unprecedented times.
“Coming out of the second one now, four weeks out into the season it all started really well, kids that have returned all picked up very nicely, really excited about coming back to football.
We're super excited to hear that the Football Foundation have just announced the completion of the Local Football Facility Plans. The Plans will help transform grassroots football facilities in our local area. You can find out more here: https://t.co/mEjbLUq173 pic.twitter.com/psqrun9FFl
— Swinton FC (@SwintonFC) November 23, 2020
“You can see it in their faces, their well-being gets lifted and then we go into another lockdown and it all goes backwards.”
The lockdown also has a big impact on the financial stability of Sunday league clubs like Swinton:
“We have no income but we still have bills to go out as a club,” said Mark.
“We don’t have any other funding so we don’t know when our next pay note’s going to be going into our bank to keep us afloat.
“Lucky enough as a club we’re quite financially stable but it’s eating away at what money we do have in the bank.”
Kieran Rabbitt, chairman of AFC Monton shared similar frustrations with the second lockdown saying: “The last months have been a lot more frustrating.
“The issue with the players is keeping them fit, because they can only really work individually.”
Kieran says Monton saw the first lockdown as an opportunity rather than a setback.
He said: “We did a hell of a lot of work in the summer, outside and inside the club. We applied for a couple of grants, the FA helped us as did the council, you’ve still got to pay your rates, your bills.
“But big credit to all our volunteers, without them you know we wouldn’t have come back to a fantastic club, the club is in much better shape actually.
“We just saw a positive out of a negative so we just took the opportunity to do a lot of stuff that actually we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.”
Despite being able to do a lot of good work around the club, the first lockdown massively impacted Monton’s season in particularly with the team not able to be awarded for a fine season.
“The end of last season was upsetting because both first and second team our open aged teams were due for promotion, they were both top of the league, we were in three semi finals between us.
— afcmonton (@ammiesfc) November 3, 2020
“So, unlike relegated sides who it didn’t really affect when the season was scrapped basically, we were just desperately disappointed because we’d worked so hard and now this year we’ve gone back into the same division.
“So, it was very frustrating and disappointing but you just get on with it.
“This year we’ve found that because we didn’t get the promotion there’s a couple of players that have gone elsewhere so we’ve had to rebuild again.
“We’ve had a good start to this season but you just look back it’s very frustrating.
“I think to be honest most teams in that league would have been happy had we forecast average points per game like they did in a couple of the pro leagues so I don’t really know why they didn’t apply the same logic.”
Kieran sums up by saying that the uncertainty with the whole situation was one of the worst things about it.
He said: “When the work started to come to an end we thought ‘are we doing this for nothing, when’s the season going to start? Is it going to start? Are the players going to come back?’
“So, there were uncertainties and it’s human nature, people want to know the end date.”