A THIRD national lockdown means more blank weekends at Ossett United but the dedication of the club’s hardy band of volunteers has ensured the club can look ahead to a bright future.

The Sheepicorns, who have not played since October, will remain off the pitch until at least March 6 following last week’s announcement of a continued suspension across all three Trident Leagues.

But the Pitching In Northern Premier League Division One North West outfit have used their time on the sidelines wisely and chairman James Rogers believes they could yet emerge from the pandemic in a healthier position.

“From a financial perspective, we are in a better position not playing than playing, with restrictions around crowd numbers and not opening the bar,” he said.

“As long as we are not forced into a position where it will end up costing us to play – it’s a pound in and a pound out at our level – and as long as we have the grants coming in, I’m pretty confident we’ll come out the other side of this pandemic, potentially in a stronger position.

“A key reason for that is our supporter base, which is very good, and they contribute in a couple of ways.

“We get regular contributions through our membership scheme and it’s really pleasing that members have continued to contribute to that despite us not being able to play games.

“More significantly, they have donated their time. We have had hundreds of hours of volunteer time across a whole range of trades – labourers, plumbers, electricians – who are helping us do improvements where we can while nothing else is happening.

“Before the latest lockdown, our ‘ground force’ group had been meeting up at weekends and to have people volunteering their time and effort to do that for us makes a massive difference.

“It keeps them socially involved and has also made day-to-day improvements in our facilities. Our whole club is volunteer-run and we couldn’t do it without them.”

Highlighting the impact of volunteers is a key aspect of Pitching In, a multi-million-pound grassroots sport investment programme established by Ladbrokes, along with its owner Entain, which includes a landmark partnership with the three Trident Leagues.

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen: Ossett are blazing a trail both on and off the pitch with their innovative 'Ground Force programme'Ossett are blazing a trail both on and off the pitch with their innovative 'Ground Force programme'

Ossett are among the 228 clubs who could benefit from the newly-launched Trident Community Foundation, giving clubs the chance to apply for grants of up to £5,000 to launch community-focused projects, and Rogers hopes United may be able to benefit from increased local support when fans are allowed back into grounds.

Pitching In’s continued support throughout these tough times is guaranteed and the Ossett chairman added: “There are more people working from home, so more people are spending time in the community and coming across things they may not have seen previously.

“I would anticipate there would be further interest in supporting the club going forward because the awareness of its role in the community has been increased.”

Ladbrokes, with the support of its owner Entain, has launched a multi-million pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sports. The programme includes a flagship partnership with The Isthmian, Northern Premier and Southern Leagues - collectively known as The Trident League, as well as a partnership with the UK sports charity SportsAid. For more details see: https://entaingroup.com/sustainability/pitching-in/