FOOTBALL has been making the headlines in the Tele, with doubt over the future of subsidies to local clubs for hiring pitches. 

Nobody wants to see the cost of grassroots football going up but after years of SNP cuts to local government — cuts totalling £1.5 billion since 2011 — councils are being put in an impossible position. 

That’s why we need to keep up the pressure for a fairer budget deal for Inverclyde Council from the SNP Government. Local SNP politicians have a particular responsibility to do this but don’t appear to be putting their bosses in Edinburgh under any pressure whatsoever.

I spoke in a debate about improving youth football in the Scottish Parliament recently and made the point that there is plenty of money in football but it is skewed towards the highest earners and most elite clubs. Football authorities should make more of an effort to see money filtered down to the grassroots.

Football can change people’s lives. It can motivate people to get active and inspire young people to get out of the house and onto the pitch. 

Sometimes the pitch is where we find discrimination and intolerance but it is also where prejudice can be challenged.

Think of the growth of women’s football, the Homeless World Cup and top players, role models to entire generations, uniting against bigotry, racism and homophobia in sport.

Harnessing the power of football can make a huge difference. That’s what clubs, including Greenock Morton, are doing in Inverclyde.

The Greenock Morton Community Trust is taking forward a number of initiatives, giving something back to the community that has shown them such loyalty through the years. I have seen some of their work for myself.

Their work with primary schools is bringing children into Cappielow and giving them the chance to train on the pitch and take part in numeracy and literacy programmes.

With employability schemes, the Trust helps people who are out-of-work learn more about the local jobs market and train for work.

Using football memorabilia, the charity helps dementia sufferers combat the effects of their condition and stimulate memories about their own lives.  

There are countless examples of how football can be a force for good. I pay tribute to the charities and the volunteers who are unlocking the real power of football, including those at work right now in Inverclyde.