Participation in grassroots football provides benefits worth about £1.25 billion to Scottish society, according to a European study.
The report, commissioned by European football’s governing body, Uefa, in conjunction with the Scottish Football Association (SFA), claims there is a direct economic impact of £200 million from playing the game plus preventative healthcare savings of more than £700m.
It also values “social benefits” at more than £300m.
The authors claim they have uncovered “unique tangible evidence” of the economic, social and health benefits that Scotland’s most popular sport stimulates.
Examples include savings of £40m on mental health services by preventing 5,000 cases.
Savings for cardiovascular treatment were estimated at £25m and type-2 diabetes at £10m. Other social and economic benefits are said to include crime reduction, job creation, assisting the unemployed and improving education.
Scotland has 147,555 registered players but an estimated 780,000 people play the game in total, mostly at informal level.
The research was carried out in conjunction with academics from Birmingham, Brunel and Loughborough universities, and involved case studies from Aberdeen FC’s Community Trust. The study looked at the SFA’s involvement in the Uefa Grow programme, which aims to improve participation in football through sharing information and co-operation between football federations across Europe.
SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell said: “We have known for decades the positive impact football as the national sport has on the population: it can inspire a nation, unite families and entire communities, and make society a better place.
“The findings in the Uefa Grow report outline the extent to which football is a force for good in helping to deliver the Scottish Government’s health and wellbeing agenda, and also the dramatic impact the national game has on the economy.
“We committed to this project to reaffirm football’s place as an essential fabric of Scottish society and we are pleased to present these findings to the Scottish Government.”
Joe FitzPatrick, minister for public health, sport and wellbeing, added: “Football is Scotland’s national game and can be a powerful force for good in our communities. As this report clearly states, the many programmes delivered through football are helping people stay active, improve their physical and mental health, and tackle issues ranging from loneliness and isolation to education and community safety.”