Written evidence submitted by Pitchero





Department of Sport, Culture, Media and Sport inquiry:

Sport in our Communities




Pitchero - the UK’s leading provider of technology to grassroots sport - believes a technology-first approach is needed to ensure the long-term viability of the amateur game.


Technology is critical to future participation growth and long-term sustainability.


While business and home life have been transformed by the adoption of technology over the past decade, the majority of amateur sports clubs are yet to embrace the digital era and reap the rewards.


And those clubs who use technology have not unlocked the full benefits.


This submission outlines the current problems faced by grassroots sports but crucially, provides solutions with a clear plan to be adopted.


We are calling for the development and rapid implementation of a coordinated Government-led digital strategy.


We would be delighted to play a role delivering this using our 13 years of specialist experience.


Who are we?  An introduction to Pitchero


Pitchero (www.pitchero.com) was created in 2007 and is the UK’s leading provider of technology to grassroots sport.


We support over 70,000 amateur teams and reach over 3.5 million active users per month.


We provide a digital sports platform giving clubs everything they need to manage their organisations online, including; online registration and member management, team management, online payments, websites, mobile apps and instant video.


Our goal is to make running a sports club easy so volunteer club officials and club members can spend more time playing, coaching and watching the sports they love.



Are current sports governance models fit for purpose?




Currently and historically, the government nor national sports governing bodies have promoted the use of technology among amateur sports to help them run their clubs.


The vast majority of sporting federations have ignored our and other tech firms’ requests to create a digital strategy despite clear and strong evidence that it works and delivers an array of important benefits.


From our discussions with governing bodies, they tell us they like our technology and can see the benefits but they are so far behind they do not know how to start implementing a digital strategy.


Conversely, they could write a cheque tomorrow for a new 3G pitch yet in years to come these could be left under-utilised due to dwindling participation numbers.


Here is a current and prime example of how technology can make a seismic impact on amateur sport.


Pitchero added a  Covid-19 Track and Trace feature to our existing apps in mid-August at the start of the new winter sports season.


It has been a huge success with nearly 500,000 amateurs using it and over 23,000 training sessions and matches recorded up to lockdown 2.0 beginning on 5th November.


The data has been shared with England Hockey which in turn promoted the benefits to its affiliated amateur clubs to encourage and help them get back playing safely.




Case study


A case study on City of York Hockey Club underlines this point further.


The club has over 500 members with 30 junior, women and men teams aged five up to veterans.


Club officials promoted the use of our Track and Trace feature in August when the club returned for the new season during the Covid-19 pandemic.


The club’s fixture secretary and Covid officer, Lily Rowntree, said: “The huge number of people involved in our club means it is impossible to keep track of players, coaches and umpires attending training and matches using pieces of paper or Excel sheets that are not fit for purpose.


“It is a huge operational effort but the app simplifies huge amounts of administration in a few clicks of a button – we simply wouldn’t have been able to play without it.


“We can send invites that players respond to and maintain a cloud-based record of every individual’s attendance.


“Should anyone report Covid-19 symptoms the app instantly shows who has trained or played where, when and with whom and we can contact all players who are at potential risk in seconds.


“We’ve also found it really useful for collecting payments online so cash isn’t handled and it’s far quicker.


“Communicating Covid-19 safety measures, the importance of strict timekeeping to avoid clusters, how to enter and exit the pitch and equipment cleaning regimes is very easy.”


This is a clear example of how a cost-effective and modest investment in technology can play a significant role helping grassroots sports.


Sadly and somewhat astonishingly, efforts to garner support from the UK’s two biggest sports governing bodies - the FA and RFU - to encourage use of the app and other technologies have fallen on deaf ears.


Put bluntly, sports governing bodies need to wake up and realise there are a lot of great, low-cost tech service providers available that can help.



Technology in action



  1. Membership registration
  2. Digital payments
  3. Team management
  4. Club management
  5. Fundraising and sponsorship
  6. Facilities
  7. Video
  8. Match statistics
  9. Education: fitness, injury prevention, rehabilitation & safety (e.g. Covid-19)




  1. Increase participation
  2. Improve public health and mental well being
  3. Generate more revenue / funding for grassroots sport
  4. Avoid duplication and time-consuming administration for volunteers
  5. Increase communication, promotion and marketing
  6. Have more time to provide better coaching and player experiences
  7. Ensure there is no lost time at key phases in young player development
  8. Make volunteering easier and more fun = more people likely to help out
  9. Safer and better record keeping storied automatically in the cloud


Low-cost technology that is available today from a range of service providers (not just Pitchero) can deliver these outcomes quickly and easily.


It is clear the current approach is not working.


At the time of writing we are in the second national Covid-19 lockdown with the grassroots game unable to train or play.


Yet we have overwhelming statistical and anecdotal evidence from clubs with thousands of members telling us technology has been crucial during the pandemic to get them back playing.


There is no reason why the grassroots game could not continue like elite sport during lockdown.


So now is the time to properly look at the technology and apply it as a solution.



At what level of sport should the government consider spending public money?


Public money expenditure needs to be focused at grassroots level.


The basic infrastructure exists.  The UK has a large number of amateur sports clubs but most are facing huge pressure even before the impact of Covid-19.


The need to support them has never been greater.


Clubs rely on volunteers – they are the backbone of grassroots sports and essential to making amateur sport happen.


These people, like most others in society, lead busy, demanding lives.


Time is precious yet they are tasked with running clubs some of which have thousands of members – they are in effect the size of medium-to-large businesses.


Yet many clubs and volunteers are, incredibly, operating manually with paper or using inappropriate software to complete registration forms, collect payments, inform members of events, update players and parents, organise training sessions, pick teams for matches, arrange transport, coordinate fixtures, submit match reports etc.


Technology can transform the volunteer’s role making it not just easier but easy.


Instead of overwhelming administration and logistical challenges, technology allows such tasks to be completed quickly in just a few clicks on a mobile, tablet, laptop or desktop computer and stored safely in the cloud.



What are the biggest risks to the long-term viability of grassroots sport?


Growing participation and revenue – both of which have been exacerbated by Covid-19.


Pitchero believes the solution lies in new, specialist, innovative technology designed to engage participants, improve communication and unite grassroots sport online.


Technology will make volunteers’ jobs more efficient and enjoyable and rewarding, creating a virtuous circle.


Once we reach this point, we will have more people volunteering and getting involved in grassroots sport making it more sustainable financially and in terms of active participants.


Our data shows participation numbers in rugby for example, have dropped off significantly due to Covid-19.


The clubhouse economy has also been traumatised with little to no matchday revenue or hospitality / venue hire income.


Tech plays an important role here in the organisation and booking of events, marketing and sponsorship along with these following points:






Technology and participation


                Prospective players and parents will begin their search online.

                Professional websites and social media accounts will be more appealing.

                Up-to-date club news and team information will make finding a team easy.

                Online registration forms and payment information is essential.

                Contact details for coaches and team managers break down barriers.


                Keeping players up-to-date with the team and match information ties them closer to the club, especially when they move away e.g. studying or work.

                Details, statistics, photos and videos build legacies and memories which bond players to teams and clubs for a lifetime.

                Player availability and team selection tools make sure all players get equal access to game time.


                Digital membership and payment tools reduce volunteer administration saving hours of precious time each week.

                The administration role becomes easier, less stressful.

                More members apply to volunteer, knowing the role is manageable with little stress.


                Communication via mobile apps is free and instant. Hundreds of players and parents can be contacted with a few clicks of a screen.

                The right information delivered to the right person, at the right time.

Revenue & Fundraising

                Digital membership payments will boost income as fewer payments are missed.

                Recurring payments allows monthly or weekly payments to be collected reducing the cost burden on new prospective members.

                Digital payments are safer, faster and open 24/7.

                Increasing income, protecting club members, whilst reducing administration.

                During Covid-19, cash does not need to be handled.


                Adopting facility management software allows clubs to lease out unused facilities and earn rental income they would normally miss.

Player experience

                Extra revenue from new members and online digital payments can be invested in the player experience.

                Improved changing rooms and clubhouse. Investments in pitches, equipment and kit will retain and attract new players.


                App-based coaching can be delivered one-to-one to players based on their experience and field position. Amateur players can be tutored by professional players.

                Coaches can take courses online, share best practice and learn from professional coaches at the top of their game.

Player development

        Player performance can be tracked online and new talent missed through the narrow academy system can be identified.

Data & strategy

                By using technology to track participation, competitions, player performance and club management, federations can create data-driven strategies, assigning resources accurately, to where they are needed most.

Child protection

                Technology can be used to track club members in real time, stopping would-be offenders before they commit crimes.

                Automated real time systems can remove the bureaucratic system currently managed by volunteer officials.

Injury protection

                Injured players, specifically concussions can be recorded and tracked.

                Rehabilitation can be provided online.

Virus protection

                Participation training and matches can be recorded via app and stored securely online. Should a virus break out, players can be tracked within minutes.




What key measures could the government introduce to increase the resilience of sports clubs and venues?  How should the government make this happen?


What we are calling for is very clear.


We want government to direct national governing bodies to work with us and other leading sports tech firms so we can demonstrate what can be achieved and create a clear roadmap. (We would be delighted to be part of this to help shape a comprehensive digital strategy).


Once armed with this knowledge, they should encourage amateur clubs to use certain online platforms and apps specific to their needs e.g. whether that be for Covid safety or to increase participation levels etc.


They should actively share proven case studies such as the City of York Hockey Club example above showing how other clubs are operating and benefiting.


It is important to state that this isn’t us looking to benefit commercially.  We formed in 2007 and have been banging this drum loudly for many years along with our competitors.


This is bigger than business.  Covid has changed the world but that doesn’t mean grassroots sports need to stop because there is technology available that provides a very simple solution.



To what extent should elite professional sports support the lower leagues and grassroots?


Elite sports are in an ideal position to support local grassroots sport. The UK is home to over 100 professional sports clubs across; football, rugby union, rugby league and cricket, as well as hundreds more semi-professional organizations


These clubs have training grounds, highly trained staff as well as expertise in the development of talent.


It should be the responsibility of local professional clubs to manage and oversee grassroots within their local area, not a centralised bureaucratic organization in ivory tower in London.


Local professional clubs are motivated to win hearts and minds with the local community. They are in the strongest position to build and support local facilities, inspire and motivate players and coaches and provide expert guidance to volunteer administrators.


National Governing Bodies have received vast funding over the last 10 years but grassroots organisations remain fragile and participation in team sports has barely increased.


Now is the time for change.