A football club in crisis is a community in crisis

Costs are going up for charities like ours, and the money does not trickle down from the glitzy Premier League to our communities the way we would love it to.

We are all familiar with our local sports clubs – some of us may have even attended one. But how many of us realise that these local hubs are actually charities, often run by incredible, dedicated volunteers on minimal funding? We spoke to CSM London FC in Redbridge who told us all about common misconceptions around football and what their community needs from them, and us, to get through the cost-of-living crisis.

CSM London FC in Redbridge brings together people aged 11 to 45 through football, focusing on marginalised groups and encouraging physical activity and social integration in a welcoming environment for all ethnic backgrounds. They want to enhance their attendees’ physical and mental health and, ultimately, offer positive lifestyle choices through football to avoid anti-social behaviour. The organisation was most recently awarded £1,982 as part of our Made by Sport: Clubs in Crisis fund.

When asked how the cost of living was impacting their beneficiaries, their main concern was the increasing number of people they work with being forced to cut back on positive healthy habits in favour of necessities. Sadly, this translates as attendees having to make a choice between attending paid-for sessions and paying for their weekly shop.

It's hard to keep fit now. I was able to restart playing football again but as soon as the cost of everything started going up, I went from playing three times a week back down to one. I really wanted to play more, as I was not doing any physical activity but it’s just not affordable anymore. Sometimes CSM gives us free sessions for regular attendance, but I know that it’s hard for them to keep rewarding us like that.
Myuran, CSM London FC beneficiary

London’s marginalised communities are in desperate need of government support, but while they wait, they will turn to charities they know and trust. Organisations like CSM London FC that are well-known in the local area, who will step up and find creative solutions to the problems they see before them. Like the club’s new "FEED" project, which encourages committee members, volunteers and players to give back to their local community by making and distributing food and hygiene packs to homeless communities in London. The idea behind the project is to demonstrate that being part of CSM London FC is not just about the individuals who attend the club, it is about social wellbeing for the wider community. Through FEED, they hope to ensure vulnerable people from the local area receive at least one meal per month from the club, eventually making it a more regular occurrence.

The flipside to these kinds of projects is that, just like their beneficiaries, CSM London FC are seeing their costs go through the roof, with facility hire representing the heaviest financial burden. They have the ideas, the demand and the expertise, but they need our support to keep these services going through the crisis.

Clubs at the grassroots are more than just a place for young people to take part in a sport. They are vital features in their community.

Managing Director of the club, Anees Ikramullah says “There is a misconception that football is already well funded and, therefore, less deserving of funding. The reality is quite the opposite. Clubs at the grassroots are more than just a place for young people to take part in a sport. They are vital features in their community, providing a physical and mental wellbeing service that many young people, particularly in Black and minoritised ethnic communities, would not otherwise have access to.”

This story is about so much more than sport. This is a community coming together to weather a crisis. We must do everything we can to help them, and charities like them, keep their doors open through the winter.

Donate to our Together for London appeal to help clubs like CSM London FC keep their community going through the cost-of-living crisis.