Sport for all? Fat chance

I am a dreadful footballer. There are no two ways about it, and much as we’d all love to be a football prodigy from a young age, I most certainly wasn’t anywhere near, and that hasn’t change as I’ve got older. I do however love playing, and would love to play more, if only that was possible.

As an 8 year old I would go to football training, where I would generally play as a relatively useless defender. Despite training every week, and also being 8 years old, I would never get invited to the matches.

Now, this won’t become a mis-lit classic where I go on to reveal that alongside the fact I was never picked for football, I was also made to sleep in a wardrobe and only got a damn good kicking for Christmas.

In fact my parents were great, and would never make me do anything I didn’t want to do, so I stopped going to football training, and they were happy with that.

As a kid I initially thought playing in a football team would be great, it was soon becoming obvious that the reality was far from that.

There is very little joy to be had as an eight year old by being yelled at by an overly competitive “coach”, whilst other kids are telling you to “square it” or “keep the shape” What was so fun on the playground was tedious and miserable when it became competitive.

So, by age 8 I was done with playing football for a team. I was happy to play with mates, or in 5-a-side games, but playing competitive football could get stuffed.

So, by the age you go to Primary school I’d given up on competitive football, and I’m very confident that I wasn’t the only one.

I was talking to a work colleague who was saying that he was yet to find a club for his son, despite a city wide search. His boy wants to play football, but isn’t the best player so there’s no club for him.

So, with grassroots football again in the news, I thought I’d explain why at 28 I still won’t bother playing competitive football.

Nowadays, despite every “Olympic legacy” initiative to get people involved in sport, it’s still impossible to find a sports team that isn’t full of the most extreme dullards and nauseating arseholes on earth.

The uber competitive, the hyper critical and the overly macho still run football clubs, and every other sport club in fact. There’s little to no room for those who just fancy a good laugh and a few hours of competitive sport every week.

They’re boys clubs, where mistakes are heavily criticised, banter is king, and you’ll have to pick all your clothes out of the shower on a weekly basis.

I’m sure there are clubs where it’s fine to be crap, and where you can play sport without getting hounded by an overly aggressive accountant every time you misplace a pass, but I’m yet to find it.

For sport to prosper in this country many of the old values, and ways need to change. All comers need to be embraced, regardless of ability, and clubs need to realise that inclusivity and encouragement is not just for children but for everyone.

It’s not just about your ability, in fact that’s bottom of the pile, it should be the case that if you want to play, you can. Gender, height, weight, sexual preference, age, shoe size, social standing or what biscuit you dunk in your tea shouldn’t be the slightest barricade to playing sport.

It should be for everyone, but sadly it seems that it isn’t.

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The price isn’t right

Before I start, I should say that I love football. I’ve been besotted since my dad first took me to a game as a child. The game has at times occupied my life. It’s been a family connection and an opening conversation starter at every party I’ve been to as well.

I’m fortunate enough to live about a 20 minute drive from a number of football clubs. I’m primarily a Huddersfield Town fan, but I really like the idea of going to watch some local teams and would like to just go the football as a neutral on occasion.

Firstly, it’s important to say that not one of these clubs is in the Premier League, and secondly there isn’t one that’s even close to being sold out week in week out.

Further to this not one of these clubs has a reputation for exciting football, or even any recent successes that would suggest an increased demand for tickets.

So, why on earth does it cost a minimum of £20 to watch these teams? In some cases, why does it cost considerably more than £30 to watch?

I cannot think of a single good reason why football, at a lower level costs so much. I understand that football clubs want the guaranteed season ticket money, but even that doesn’t reduce the match day cost considerably.

Football clubs are now completely relying on fans who don’t think they’re a proper fan unless they go to every game regardless of the price.

Football is becoming a cost I can just about afford on rare occasions, but certainly not one I can ever truly justify.

Personally the football match day experience wasn’t about the football on offer. It was about spending time with my dad, and latterly my brother too. We’d go to the game, talk absolute rot for 90 minutes, get acid reflex from a slop pie, and then continue talking nonsense on the walk home.

Nowadays, we can’t all afford to go together as it would cost more than £60 to watch a game, and it’s a price that none of us are too happy to pay.

I’ll always miss that experience, and that time with my family, but unless football prices change we’ll have to continue to talk over the TV.

Now this isn’t a new problem, as prices have been creeping up for years, but now I’m officially done. I won’t pay a penny to watch football until prices are affordable for everyone.

Those days in the stands of various grounds up and down the country with my dad are some of my fondest memories with him. It’s sad that they won’t continue or that many others will miss out on similar experiences with their family.

Whether or not things will ever change, I don’t know, but as much as I’ll miss live football, it’s a price I’m not willing to pay.