GRASSROOTS football will be given a £16m boost in preparation for a return to action from March 29.

Funds will be made available through a joint initiative between the Premier League, the Football Association and the Government’s Football Foundation ahead of stage two of lockdown easing.

Football at Step 7 and below has been a major sporting casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the Dorset Premier League and Dorset Football League curtailed.

Groups whose participation has been affected most by the coronavirus pandemic including clubs in the highest areas of deprivation in England, disability football and under-represented groups, including women and girls, will receive £2m.

An additional £14m bursary will provide six-year grants to renovate grass pitches.

Clubs can use small grants to pay for essential equipment and machinery in preparation for the restart.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said: “We are so looking forward to the safe return of grassroots football from 29th March and will do all we can to support clubs up and down the country to get back to normal after what has been an unprecedented year of challenges.

“Grassroots football has a hugely positive impact by bringing communities together and improving the health of the nation.

"These new funds will provide crucial financial support to clubs and leagues, helping them to get the game we love up and running again.”

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters added: “There is huge excitement across the country ahead of the return of grassroots football at the end of the month.

“The game provides so many benefits for people of all ages and brings communities together which is now more vital than ever.

“The launch of these three funds will provide targeted support for clubs across the country with a range of grants designed to ensure a safe return of the grassroots game.”

As part of the small grants, clubs can apply for up to £25,000 to refurbish their changing rooms, pay for grass pitch drainage, new goalposts, pitch maintenance equipment and portable floodlights.