Former England skipper Stuart Pearce believes a ground-breaking sponsorship called ‘Pitching In’ will change the face of non-league football at Steps three and four.
Pearce started his career in non-league football, working his way up the ladder from Wealdstone to Wembley, signing for Coventry City, before going on to play for Nottingham Forest, West Ham and Newcastle, Manchester City and racking up 80 caps for England.
Pearce was appointed as an ambassador for the new Pitching In initiative this week; a flagship partnership with Isthmian, Southern and Northern Premier League clubs promoting and supporting grassroots sport after the Covid-19 pandemic.
The fiery former left back knows the timing of the programme couldn’t be more fitting and says GVC Holdings’ innovation is blazing a trail.
“The importance of the Pitching In initiative is that it’s given the opportunity, and funding, at a really crucial point in time,” said Pearce, 58, speaking at Thame United FC – one of 228 Trident League clubs to benefit from the new programme.
“It’s a great initiative in terms of putting money into grassroots football, and the funding has come at a really crucial point in time after the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There’s a real need for it, especially in the lower leagues and further down the footballing pyramid, and we need to keep funding it.
“I think the timing is special, with Covid, a lack of fans coming in and the importance of togetherness in communities as well.
“The importance of that is certainly not lost on me, or a lot of the non-league clubs that are going to benefit by this.
“Having the opportunity to be an ambassador for Pitching In is fantastic for me and I’ve got great pride in it.
“It’s crucial that GVC Holdings are putting money into the non-league game – the more they can do to help at grassroots level, the more clubs will benefit.”
📢 Introducing PITCHING IN - The Grassroots Sports investment Programme aimed to support, protect and encourage grassroots sports in the UK.— Pitching In (@PitchingIn_) September 3, 2020
Click link to find out more ➡️ https://t.co/h5XklN8tMs pic.twitter.com/aWkF8q1qvw
Pearce played almost 200 games for Wealdstone and knows the non-league game is the lifeblood of English football, with the multi-million-pound, multi-year Pitching In programme now delivering vital financial assistance to clubs.
And that economic support is supplemented by an emphasis on community volunteers pitching in and contributing themselves, a fundamental aspect of the non-league game that Pearce knows so well.
A Pitching In volunteering scheme will be established to help strengthen community ties, with clubs also having the opportunity to apply for grants to ease the financial strain of lockdown.
Pearce is currently a first-team coach at West Ham United but maintains a close interest in the Trident Leagues, helping at his beloved Wealdstone at Grosvenor Vale during his time away from the London Stadium.
Promoting volunteers – critical to the existence of non-league clubs – is at the heart of Pitching In and Pearce believes that emphasis on community also makes the programme unique.
“The non-league game is the lifeblood of English football and is a focal point for communities,” he added.
“And I’ve always felt that the volunteers at all football clubs are the lifeblood of any football club.
“Quite often, football clubs are the hub of a community because of volunteers, and if they can have some recognition and the opportunity for funding to improve their life through Pitching In, all of those types of things are going to help the game.
“My roots are in grassroots – I cut my teeth at this level and never forget where I’ve come from, so the opportunity of pushing grassroots football didn’t need to be sold on me.”
GVC is launching a new multi-million-pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sports and is being launched with a flagship partnership with The Isthmian, Northern Premier and Southern Leagues - collectively known as The Trident Leagues. For more information visit: https://gvc-plc.com/PitchingIn