Campaigner is taking the fight to Number 10

Campaigner Kenny Saunders with former England international Peter Reid (left) and Mickey Thomas
Campaigner Kenny Saunders with former England international Peter Reid (left) and Mickey Thomas
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A former Liverpool footballer has backed The Bucks Herald’s campaign to Make Football More Affordable and wants to join forces to take the fight all the way to Number 10.

Former Liverpool reserve team player Kenny Saunders has led a one-man battle to lower costs in the grassroots game and wants to join forces with the people of Aylesbury Vale and beyond to get 100,000 signatures for his online petition.

Herald Sport has been highlighting the worrying trend of teams struggling to stay afloat amidst ever rising pitch hire and running costs this summer, but for Saunders it all started back in November last year.

He said: “I heard that Sefton Borough (Liverpool) were increasing mini soccer from £150 to £600 and bigger pitches from £550 to £1,650.

“I organised a boycott of matches across Liverpool on the weekend of December 1 and 2.

“We achieved with help from leagues and teams over 9,000 kids coming out in support of us. We held a demonstration which was well attended by a lot of teams and also media such as Sky, BBC and Granada.

“Five days later we received confirmation that Sefton Council had ripped the consultation document up with immediate affect. So people power won the day.”

After speaking to Bolton MP David Crausby, Saunders set up an e-petition and launched his campaign.

He has since received high profile backing from the likes of footballers Joey Barton and Stan Collymore, former England player Peter Reid, Mickey Thomas (ex-Everton), John Coleman (ex-Rochdale manager), Neil Sang (football agent), Ian st John (ex-Liverpool), Luciana Burgess (MP Liverpool) and Neville Southall (ex-Everton).

The e-petition needs to get 100,000 signatures in 12 months for it to be eligible to present to the government.

Saunders already has 11,700 and approached The Bucks Herald in a bid to join forces and add Aylesbury Vale’s voice to the calls for action over grassroots costs.

Saunders added: “I saw The Bucks Herald campaign online and it is exactly what we are striving for.

“It is great to know someone else out there is taking action.

“The e-petition is calling on the government to make sure that from the Prem TV deal next year – which is £5bn – that grassroots football receives 7.5%.

“In 1999 it was agreed with the Premier League that contributions would be 5% however on research from top journalists there has only been 1% been put back into grassroots football.

“Millions of pounds since 1999 have been taken from grassroots football when the working class game needs all the support it can get because council resources are no longer putting money into facilities and pitches and the conditions of these are very poor.

“We have also found that three years ago the three investors into grassroots which are the FA, Premier League and Government (at the time Labour) reduced contributions from £20m per year to £12m without any explanation.

“However calculations work out that £72m has been taken out of grassroots football again.

“With the help of all supporters of our great game including those in Aylesbury I am sure that we will achieve our target of 100,000 signatures.”

+ Sign the e-petition and follow the campaign on Twitter @savegrassroots