SPOND have over a million active grassroots users, and they give us the insight on how we’re finding our feet after the pandemic and what we felt as managers were, and continue to be, the toughest challenges.
Running a grassroots team or club is always a challenge, but we can never have imagined that we’d be confronted with quite so many challenges as we have been during the ongoing pandemic. In terms of grassroots football, we’re seemingly back to normal with clubs, games, leagues and cups cracking on and making the best of it, hopeful that the worst is behind us and that words we’ve had to endure like “null and void” and “curtailed” are a thing of the past. The Long Covid effects on the grassroots game remain to be seen, especially in us as players, volunteers, coaches and managers.
Spond is a grassroots management app that we’ve used for three seasons, which of course have been dominated by the pandemic. So where we’re well placed to talk about how it’s supported us, Spond’s over a million weekly active users mean that there aren’t many better placed to tell us how we felt about running our clubs during the pandemic, and how we’re feeling now after enduring such a trying period.
Issues of safety and health were thrust to the top of our priority lists and the added pressure of the responsibility that came with them. Organisation, recruitment, communication and funding are all part of a grassroots manager’s job description, but these were unprecedented times where all of these roles were made different somehow. With all that in mind, it feels like there’s never been a more important time to streamline how we go about managing all of these elements, and Spond always seems to deliver in that regard.
A recent Spond survey of UK grassroots managers using the app asked us the big questions. None bigger than “Did the pandemic make us want to quit?”. Sadly, 22% felt that it did. However, this seems to be just an honest answer to the question, as added pressures mounted up and at the pandemic’s worst it may have felt like there were more important things to focus on. Grassroots managers however are a stubborn and committed bunch, with a steely resolve, and only 0.6% of those asked actually did. A number that surely wouldn’t have been too dissimilar outside of the pandemic.
For us, and for many others, grassroots football has never felt more important. A feeling echoed by Spond CEO, Trine Falnes:
“After such an intensely stressful time, getting back to doing the things we love, with the people we care for, is crucial to our mental and physical health. The massive disruption caused by the pandemic will require us to come together collectively to rebuild and reconnect. One of the few positives to come from the pandemic has been a resurgence of people thinking local and valuing their communities.”
So we’re carrying on because it’s never been more necessary to us. But how hard was it to organise and communicate with our teams? 82% of grassroots managers either haltered or communicated less with their teams and 76% found it harder to organise. These feel like very explainable numbers. As any grassroots manager knows, in more “precedented” times with weekly training sessions and matches, the communication is pretty non-stop. For it not to have lessened somewhat would have been highly surprising. Organisation on the other hand, was hard, there’s no doubt about it. With grassroots football being on, then off, then on, then off again. The survey found that the most common challenges during the pandemic was keeping up with Covid-19 restrictions and regulations and feeling added pressures of ensuring the health and safety of others.
There was also the factor of players or their parents having various opinions on the safety in turning up to play. Many were withdrawn, many happy to play. The survey found that 50% of managers feared that players would not return to play. 51% confirmed that the pandemic had added to the burden of being involved in amateur sports.
One thing from our perspective is that having Spond as a tool to streamline and effectively manage all of the above issues has dramatically helped us as grassroots admins during this period. And we weren’t alone. The best experiences of Spond during the pandemic was streamlining communication, keeping track of sign-ups and attendance for track and trace rather than filling in forms, creating polls to gauge player thoughts on returning to football without corresponding individually and paying membership payments effortlessly.
Trine’s been blown away by the resilience of the grassroots community. “It’s been incredibly rewarding to hear from our users that Spond made a difference in their lives as they navigated the immense challenges brought about by the pandemic. We are so in awe of all the grassroots managers and volunteers for how they managed to keep their groups alive and lines of communication open even when physical meet-ups weren’t possible. Our users continue to inspire us every day.”
Probably the most devastating impact of the pandemic on grassroots football was the loss of or difficulty in securing funding. The impact of this has yet to be measured but a lot of great clubs, teams and leagues have been lost. Those that remain are having to be enterprising to survive and 30% of those surveyed indicated that the pandemic has made them more concerned about having the sufficient funds to make sure they always have the right kit, equipment and facilities to run their team or club effectively. Having mastered all other elements of grassroots management on the app, Trine and Spond are now looking at new ways to support teams and clubs in getting the funding or sponsorship they need.
“For millions, the experience of community sport is priceless,” comments Trine. “But it is not free. Anyone involved in local sport knows that every club relies on an army of unpaid volunteers to make things happen. The pandemic has proved catastrophic on so many levels, including for clubs’ finances, which were already strained even before the pandemic hit. We’re hearing from our users that they need more help when it comes to fundraising, and are busy testing prototypes of virtual fundraisers that can help clubs and teams generate revenue. These micro-fundraisers could play a small but vital role in helping fill funding gaps and replacing lost revenue. Now, more than ever, it’s vital we give grassroots sports the support they need.”
Spond aren’t resting on their laurels as they continue to go from strength to strength in their pursuit of improving the grassroots game, recently closing an £8.4M funding round, with venture firm Verdane coming on as investor.
“We are so excited to welcome Verdane onto the Spond team, and to embark on this next stage of our growth journey. This funding will enable us to accelerate our growth and invest heavily in our products so we can support our users even better.”
To improve your grassroots experience and get the time back to focus on the things you love, download Spond from the app store or Google Play.