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March 10, 2020

The hidden value of football

If you read the sports pages you might conclude that Scottish football is in the doldrums and indeed has been wallowing about in that state since the national team last qualified for a major tournament (1998 World Cup). But, in parallel with this decline at the top end of the senior game, there has been a refocusing and a reappraisal of the relationship that football has with its grass roots. Community-based clubs are starting to be acknowledged more widely for the multiple local benefits that they generate. And these benefits have a significant cash worth.


Ayr United generate £8.6m and Spartans £5.2m each year for their local communities, says a Uefa pilot study.

The clubs – from the Scottish Championship and Lowland League – were chosen to pioneer a football adaptation of a programme designed to calculate social impact.

Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell hopes it will help community clubs attract investment and sponsorship.

“It demonstrates the bang for the buck that we get from football,” he said

“The numbers that come out the other end from an economic, social and health benefit perspective are huge.”

Maxwell said Ayr and Spartans were chosen because Uefa recognised “the good work Scottish clubs are doing in the local communities”.

It follows a national study in 2018, when it was revealed that participation in grassroots football delivers more than £1.2bn of “positive value to Scottish society”.

Ayr United Community Value

£4.15m    in subjective wellbeing

£0.432+   in improved mental health

£0.238      in tackling dementia

£0.216      in combatting school absences

£0.303m   in education attainment

“Our clubs do a huge amount and it’s not just football related,” Maxwell told BBC Scotland.

“Obviously there is participation and people physically taking part in games of football, but there’s a lot of activity that goes on that uses football as the hook but is not necessarily linked to playing.

“Football covers a huge amount of society and it’s important that we recognise that.”

Maxwell admitted that many would be surprised at the impact a part-time club like Spartans can have on areas such as local infrastructure, mental wellbeing and even health problems like diabetes.

“When you look at the study and understand the different areas it looks at – the cost of people getting to training, venue hire, the amount of volunteer hours that these clubs put in if those individuals were getting paid, those numbers are huge,” he said.

“If you take those numbers across Scottish football and the thousands of clubs that do similar work, the overall impact is massive and it’s important we get this model around as many clubs as possible and that each club can go and tell its own story.”

Spartans’ community value

£2.16       Infrastructure investment

£0.86       Value of volunteering

£1.3m      in subjective wellbeing

£0.147m in improved mental health

£0.086m in reducing diabetes