VC launched Thursday a major new multi-million-pound investment program, ‘Pitching In,’ designed to support and promote grassroots sports, amid the negative financial impact the pandemic is having on football clubs and sporting organisations across the UK.
The multi-million-pound, multi-year, investment program is being launched with a flagship partnership with The Isthmian, Northern Premier and Southern Leagues – collectively known as The Trident Leagues – which make-up levels seven and eight of the English football league pyramid.
The Trident Leagues, which trace their roots back to the nineteenth century, are at the heart of the national game, with 226 clubs (rising to 240 Clubs in 2021) and 15,000 players registered across the three leagues in the many villages, towns, and cities of England and Wales, bridging the gap between the professional and recreational football worlds.
The announcement, which sees each of the leagues take the Pitching In title, will deliver needed financial support, as the leagues seek to cope with the consequences of the COVID-19 lockdown, which saw the null and voiding of the 2019-20 season. In addition to financial support, a key focus of the partnership will be to facilitate and encourage community volunteers to do some pitching in of their own, and contribute their time and effort. A Pitching In volunteering scheme will be established to link UK-based GVC colleagues with their local clubs to further strengthen community ties.
England footballing legend Stuart Pearce is returning to his non-league footballing roots and has been signed up by GVC as the official Pitching In Ambassador. The former defender, who has 78 caps for England, famously played with non-league Wealdstone FC for over five years, before going on to play for Coventry City, Nottingham Forest, Newcastle United, Manchester City and West Ham United.
“I am delighted to be taking up the role of ambassador for Pitching In, as I’m passionate about the importance of investing in grassroots sports and in developing young talent,” Pearce said in a press release. “I started out playing for Wealdstone FC before joining Coventry City so I understand how important funding is to the non-league game. Grassroots football is facing huge challenges at the moment and many clubs are struggling to stay afloat. GVC’s Pitching In investment will help make a big difference to hundreds of clubs and thousands of players across the country.”
Shay Segev, CEO of GVC Holdings commented: “In a world where local and grassroots sports are under increasing financial pressure, we believe our Pitching In Investment Programme will play a pivotal role in supporting the next generation of British sporting heroes. Today’s partnership announcement with The Trident Leagues is a hugely positive step in this direction and underlines our commitment to support both grassroots sport, and the communities in which we operate.”
In a joint statement, the three leagues – Nick Robinson (chairman, Isthmian), Mark Harris (chairman, Northern Premier) and Anthony Hughes (vice chairman, Southern League) welcomed their new partners. “Community is at the heart of non-league football, so the Pitching In partnership is a perfect fit for us. GVC’s commitment to grassroots sport is clear from their previous work, and this investment shows huge belief in the importance of grassroots sport.”
In line with the decision taken by GVC in 2019, to unilaterally pull-out of sponsorship of football in the UK, the Pitching In partnership will not promote any of the Group’s betting or gaming brands and no branding will be used at any of the leagues’ grounds. GVC will utilise its expertise and that of independent consultants to deliver extensive educational programmes on responsible gambling and sports integrity to all of the leagues’ clubs.
Following the launch of the Pitching In Investment Programme, the Group’s existing multi-year collaboration with SportsAid will become an important part of Pitching In. Launched in 2019, via its partnership with SportsAid, GVC supports 50 aspiring athletes a year across England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.