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Pitching In is a fantastic initiative which supports and develops grassroots and community sport

I’m hugely excited that Pitching In is entering its fourth year of sponsorship of the Trident Leagues - the Northern Premier, Isthmian and Southern leagues – which are made up of 250 clubs at steps three and four of the English football pyramid. Pitching In is a fantastic initiative from Entain which supports and develops grassroots and community sport in the UK.

Having cut my teeth in the non-league game at Wealdstone before going on to captain my country at the highest level, I know first-hand the importance of the English football pyramid when it comes to nurturing domestic talent up and down the country.

But the non-league game represents so much more than mere matters on the pitch, with clubs across the Trident Leagues functioning at the heart of local communities and providing such a sense of belonging for so many people.

It’s so refreshing to see Entain, without promoting any of its brands, is committing to another year of its flagship multi-million-pound investment programme as it continues to help clubs improve their facilities, implement new initiatives and recruit new volunteers across the UK.

Volunteers represent the lifeblood of the non-league game and, through Entain’s trailblazing Pitching In Volunteer Hub, it’s fantastic to see them positioning themselves at the heart of grassroots sport in the UK through providing a comprehensive one-stop-shop to connect football fans and potential volunteers.

From matchday activities such as manning the turnstiles, stewarding and catering, through to pitch maintenance, ground upkeep or providing administrative and professional support, there are many areas where volunteers play a vital role in ensuring their local clubs continue to thrive.

Entain’s Pitching In Volunteer Hub is a real game-changer when it comes to promoting volunteering at a community level, with volunteering not only being essential for non-league clubs to survive but also offering a hugely rewarding and positive experience for those who get involved.

I’ve loved seeing so many clubs from across each of the Trident Leagues become such prolific, successful users of Pitching In’s Volunteer Hub, with teams such as Marske United and Belper Town both filling a raft of recent positions through taking advantage of the innovative online portal.

And from a broader perspective, Entain’s Trident Community Foundation (TCF) has provided a pivotal service for non-league clubs through its wide-ranging offering of grants across the leagues, which help support, develop and improve the delivery of community programmes and help fund small and medium-sized projects.

The TCF’s vision of providing a sustainable community programme to help develop young talent, promote non-league football to a wider audience and attract volunteers has become a crucial component of the Pitching In programme over the last few years, with so many clubs benefiting and therefore being able to implement such a range of fantastic new initiatives.

Just look at clubs like Colne, who play in the Pitching In Northern Premier League and used the crucial injection of funding to run specialist training for budding young goalkeepers in the north-west area.

Or from a Pitching In Isthmian or Southern League perspective, Canvey Island – who used the funding to host a fun-filled Soccability tournament – Ramsgate and Poole Town, who both put on free football sessions to provide opportunities for children from disadvantaged backgrounds in their relevant local areas.

Across all facets of the non-league game, it really is so encouraging to see Entain – without in any way promoting their range of brands – invest so significantly and make such a meaningful contribution up and down the nation.

My own personal visits to clubs such as 2021 FA Trophy champions Hornchurch and Camden Town Women – who received vital new funding last year – really shine a light on the genuine impact Entain’s support has made.

It has been a genuine privilege to be an official ambassador for Entain’s Pitching In programme over the last three years, and I can’t wait to continue seeing the initiative go from strength to strength throughout another hugely exciting year ahead.

Former England Captain - Stuart Pearce

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