The campaign, which was launched in March by PubAid and Sky to recognise and reward pubs’ support for local sport, is open to any pub involved in local sport, whether it be a pool or darts side, sponsor a football team or put on a post-match spread for a cricket side. Grassroots Sports Champion is free to join and pubs receive a marketing pack of staff T-shirts and window stickers.
According to a survey by PubAid, pubs contribute £40m every year to grassroots sport, either through direct sponsorship or donations or in-kind support. With a lack of funding the biggest challenge for many local teams, pubs are providing a lifeline that helps clubs to stay afloat and enables thousands of people to play the sport they love.
PubAid co-founder Des O’Flanagan said: “We’re delighted with this enthusiastic response to Grassroots Sports Champion. These pubs are providing invaluable help to local sports teams that are frequently only able to operate thanks to their sponsorship or in-kind support – and they thoroughly deserve this recognition.”
Sky Business TV managing director Damian Saunders added: “The scale of involvement is impressive with many pubs supporting teams across several sports and age groups in their locality.”
One Grassroots Sports Champion is the Cresswell Arms in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland. Last year, licensee David Haggerty started sponsoring a new Sunday football team, which was set up by Nick Storey, a pub regular who works for Newcastle United Foundation.
Combating social isolation
He said: “Nick started the team as a way of combating social isolation and the mental health issues around it in our community, particularly among young men.”
Meanwhile, Paul Sandford, owner of the Railway Tavern in Dereham, Norfolk, made sport a focus when he bought the pub 13 years ago and now supports football – including ladies and veterans teams – rugby and cricket clubs.
He says: “I’ve always played or coached sport, so I wanted it to be part of the pub. Sport is at the heart of the Railway.”
 Pubs & Sport, The Perfect Match, based on a survey of 1,400 pubs conducted June - September 2018.