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The cost of living strikes: Girls’ football ambitions held back by cost of paying to play

2nd February 2023

  • Surge in women and girls wanting to play football since Lioness’s historic EURO win1

  • Cost of kit, subs and coaching hits recruitment at grassroots clubs

  • Starling Bank and former Lioness Jill Scott launch £200,000 kit give-away

2nd February 2023: More women and girls want to play football following the Lioness’s victory at the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022, with 73% of grassroots clubs seeing a surge in demand. However, the cost of living crisis is preventing clubs from taking on new players, a new study from Starling Bank reveals.

The cost of football kit is the biggest barrier for recruiting new players, with three quarters of clubs (72%) struggling to fund it, the survey of 1,030 grassroots clubs found.2 Clubs report other financial roadblocks to bringing more players on board, such as hiring and running facilities (64%), buying equipment (56%), offering affordable subs (41%) and funding training for volunteer coaches (31%).

The cost of living crisis has affected players and parents of players across the board, according to a separate survey of 4,500 UK adults commissioned by Starling. More than a third of parents (34%) report cutting back on spending elsewhere to ensure they can afford their child’s football training. Parents are also dedicating their time and resources to give their children football opportunities, with a fifth (21%) doing laundry for their child’s club at home, the same amount carpooling trips to training and matches and 7% volunteering to coach their child’s team.

But women and girl’s teams, which have been historically underfunded compared to men and boys, are feeling the impact of the cost of living crisis more. Girl’s teams are more likely to face gaps in sponsorship funding; 14% of parents with daughters are helping their club to find a sponsor compared to 11% of parents with sons. Parents are also more likely to ask their daughters to contribute their pocket money towards their training than their sons to bridge the funding gap, at 15% vs 11%. Fathers devote more of their time to their child’s club than mothers, with double the amount volunteering to coach their child’s team (10% vs 5%).

Jill Scott MBE, former England player and Starling Bank ambassador said: “The Lionesses didn’t just bring it home for England, we brought it home to inspire more women and girls to play the game. Grassroots pitches are where that legacy really begins. The cost of living crisis is worrying for clubs everywhere, but it’s amazing to see how hard parents and volunteer coaches are working to create opportunities for women and girls to play. I wish I could thank them all.”

The impact of football

The research comes as the benefits of football for women and girls are widely reported. Almost half of the adult women that play football in Starling’s survey of 4,694 adults, say they play football for their fitness (46%) and to socialise (46%), while many play to earn a new skill (40%), boost their confidence (35%) or improve their mental health (33%).3

The findings indicate that if more is done to support grassroots teams, women and girls will take advantage of these opportunities, which could help close the gender participation gap in football.

Of the women players that have picked up a ball in the last year, 58% say they have done so because of the Lionesses, indicating that participation could increase even further as the England women’s team prepares for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023. Even more young girls play the game (40% compared to 50% of boys), and it is the second most popular extra-curricular activity among children (39%) after swimming (46%).

Introducing Kick On with Starling

To help reduce costs for grassroots clubs and get more women and girls in the game, Starling has launched its ‘Kick On with Starling’ initiative. Developed in partnership with Gift of Kit, the initiative will give £200,000 worth of kit, equipment and coaching vouchers to grassroots football clubs that either have an existing women’s or girl’s team or are creating a pathway to get more women and girls involved.4 Clubs can apply for the scheme on the Kick On with Starling page.

Helen Bierton, Chief Banking Officer, Starling Bank said: “Women’s football has come so far in the last year; we cannot let the cost of living crisis derail that progress. That’s why we’ve developed Kick On with Starling. It’s the next phase of our commitment to levelling the playing field, giving grassroots clubs the help they need to make women and girls’ sporting ambitions come true.”

Lorraine Warwick-Ellis, Girls Development Officer of Astley and Tyldesley FC said: “The Lioness’s win sparked something in our girl’s team; they are more determined than ever to play professionally. That’s why volunteers give up their Saturdays to coach them, and parents cheer them on, come wind, rain or shine, for every single match. ‘Kick On with Starling’ will go a long way in helping grassroots clubs and the communities that support them.”

Jonathan Green, co-founder and COO of Gift of Kit said: “The cost of living crisis has served a triple blow to grassroots football. Facilities costs are increasing, sponsors are withdrawing funding, and many players and families can’t afford an increase in subs. Fresh kit for players and coaches, new training equipment and coaching vouchers go such a long way in supporting grassroots teams financially and boosting morale.”

‘Kick On with Starling’ marks the largest donation ever received by Gift of Kit exclusively for women’s and girl’s teams. It is the latest in a series of women’s football initiatives from Starling, which was a national sponsor of the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022, where it supported fan parties across the UK and launched the first ever fantasy football game for women’s football in the UK.

The bank, which has offices in London, Southampton and Cardiff, is also front of shirt sponsor for Southampton Women’s FC and is funding a programme to get more women coaches in the region FA accreditation. Starling also donated £28,000 to grassroots clubs across the UK after the Lioness’s win, and works closely with Sports Aid to champion the female players of tomorrow.

Notes to Editors

  1. Starling Bank and Gift of Kit commissioned a survey of 1,031 grassroots football clubs in December 2022.An additional omnibus research study of 4,694 UK adults was commissioned between 5th - 13th December 2022 by Censuswide, which abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.The findings are based on adults that identify as male or female, children that identify as male or female, and clubs that compete in men and boy’s and women and girl’s leagues. The sample size of trans and non-binary participants was not strong enough to contribute robust or meaningful conclusions for this report. Starling hopes to understand more about this in future work.

  2. The average player spends £21.35 on kit per season, according to Starling’s research

  3. Finding taken from Starling’s omnibus research study of 4,694 UK adults

  4. Kits are available to grassroots teams that are either accredited by The FA in their county, or are in the process of doing so, and play in girl’s or women’s leagues. All genders are invited to apply for kit on behalf of their team, provided their team fits these requirements. Players within chosen teams that identify as trans or non-binary are also eligible for kit.

About Kick On With Starling

Starling is the only bank in the UK founded by a woman - Anne Boden - so equality is in the bank’s DNA. As Anne has smashed glass ceilings in banking and finance by starting Starling, the bank wants to highlight the same story which is happening in women’s sport. The #KickOnWithStarling initiative aims to celebrate and champion equality through football kit in the ever-changing nature of women’s football.

About Gift of Kit

As one of the most prominent grassroots organisations in the UK, Gift of Kit exists to facilitate the connection between big-name brands and grassroots clubs. Through its network of almost 30,000 sports teams, Gift of Kit delivers brand campaigns that harness the power of grassroots while providing clubs with the kit and equipment they need. To date, it has delivered over £3.3m of sponsored kit to clubs on behalf of clients such as Sky Sports, Octopus Energy and Deliveroo. Find out more about how Gift of Kit is shaping the future of grassroots sponsorship at

About Starling Bank

Starling Bank is an award-winning, fully-licensed and regulated bank built to give people a fairer, smarter and more human alternative to the banks of the past. It offers personal, business, joint, euro and dollar current accounts alongside a children’s card. Starling also provides a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) proposition through its subsidiary Engine, using the proprietary technology platform that it uses to power its own bank. The Starling Marketplace offers customers in-app access to a selection of third party financial services. Headquartered in London, the bank has offices in Southampton and Cardiff.

Contact details:

Grace Wilson, PR Manager
+44 7506 402635

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