Berkhamsted Raiders working to halt the decline in adult grassroots football
Whilst elite football and youth community football have seen huge growth in interest and participation in recent years, the grassroots senior game has been in steady decline. Berkhamsted Raiders is working hard to reverse this decline and provide more opportunities for senior football in the local community.
Participation in the traditional grassroots men’s adult football leagues has been in decline for many years. Nationally, over the last three years, another 3,000 adult senior mens’ teams have folded. Locally, the Berkhamsted Sunday League which used to comprise of 60 plus teams is now down to just 33 teams, covering Berkhamsted, Chesham, Aylesbury and Hemel Hempstead. The decline has been caused by several factors including changes in lifestyle and work patterns; increased competition from other sports; the costs of running football clubs; and a lack of investment in pitches and facilities.
Berkhamsted Raiders has been working hard to develop pathways for its players, many of whom have been with the club since the Under 8s, to continue to play the game once they move beyond our U18s teams.
Berkhamsted Raiders Senior team plays in the Spartan South Midlands League on Saturday afternoons with home matches played at the Orbital Stadium in Kings Langley. With Steve McHugh, Raiders Head Coach, at the helm, the Raiders ethos is maintained and we have been able to maximise the number of Raiders and ex-Raiders players in the squad.
With football fans not allowed in stadiums to watch the likes of Watford, Luton and the London Premiership sides, local football teams such as Berkhamsted Raiders have offered the only opportunity to watch live football in a Covid-safe environment, prior to the most recent lockdown.
Gossoms End FC who compete in the Berkhamsted Sunday League already has 13 ex-Raiders in its first team squad. A new partnership with Gossoms End will result in the creation of a Reserve team that provides another opportunity for local ex-Raiders to continue to play football to a high standard but who may not be at the right level for the Senior team.
The Club is also investing in improving pitch quality at its various pitch locations and ensuring that abandoned senior pitches are brought back into use.
Keith Pollard, Berkhamsted Raiders Chair of Trustees, said: “As part of our strategy to improve pitch facilities we’ve been working with local community partners to gain £10,000 grants from The FA to improve previously unused pitches in Wigginton and Cheddington as well as working extensively with the local councils and other stakeholders to develop new facilities in the Berkhamsted area.”