A growth plan for European football

Launched in 2015, UEFA GROW aims to systematically and strategically grow European football in close collaboration with our national associations.

All 55 UEFA national associations attended a GROW workshop in Warsaw
All 55 UEFA national associations attended a GROW workshop in Warsaw ©PZPN

"UEFA GROW is our central business development support programme to nurture football across Europe. UEFA GROW offers tailor-made consultation services to our national associations in the areas that are most relevant for football organisations, from building a better image of football, to increasing revenue opportunities and getting more people to play our beautiful game." Zoran Laković, UEFA national associations director

Promoting and developing football across Europe plays a key role for UEFA and its 55 national associations. This is at the very core of UEFA GROW, a programme that was launched in 2015 with the aim of systematically and strategically growing European football by inspiring and collaborating with our national associations in order to ensure they are able to maximise their full potential both on and off the pitch.


UEFA GROW is proving popular with the national associations
UEFA GROW is proving popular with the national associations©UEFA.com

UEFA GROW was introduced following a thorough review of the European football landscape as well as analysing statistics and industry trends. While football is the most followed sport across the majority of Europe, this review showed there were areas which had room for improvement such as trying to increase participation rates and revenues in certain markets. This is something that UEFA GROW is actively looking to build on.

• It is important that both the image of football and that of its governing bodies is viewed positively as negative perceptions can affect other business outcomes and the development of the sport.

• Football cannot develop unless people continue to play the game. How people play is also evolving and changing. UEFA GROW is looking to help national associations increase the number of registered football players at grassroots level after there had been a decrease between 2010 and 2015 within some associations.

• The digital revolution is happening and UEFA GROW is aiming to assist the national associations to adapt accordingly in order to develop football engagement through new technology and platforms in their respective markets.

• Changes in the sponsorship and media rights landscapes have create new opportunities for national associations to generate additional revenues which could be used for new development programmes.

UEFA GROW offers additional support to the national associations going beyond the existing assistance of UEFA's HatTrick programme. The core pillars of the HatTrick initiative, which remain the same today, include offering the national associations financial assistance, knowledge sharing and education.

In the summer of 2015, UEFA GROW launched six pilots with the football associations of Azerbaijan, Finland, Malta, Northern Ireland, Portugal and Slovenia. Following a successful test phase, the project was given the go-ahead to be further expanded across Europe as the result of a gathering of presidents and general secretaries from all member associations in September 2015 in Malta.

How does UEFA GROW work and what support do the national associations get?

UEFA GROW is looking to support national associations across Europe
UEFA GROW is looking to support national associations across Europe©PZPN

The mission of UEFA GROW is to lead and support the growth of football across Europe. This is achieved by using fact-based research, market intelligence and industry experts to build strategic plans for growing the game.

UEFA GROW focuses on providing individual assistance to each national association through a series of workshops and additional follow-up support. The workshops are always tailored to meet the respective federation's needs and take into account local market challenges, however the UEFA GROW framework is the same across Europe and linked to why UEFA GROW was launched in the first place – to ensure the national associations are able to maximise their potential both on and off the pitch.

The main four growth areas and the respective benefits for the national associations are as follows:

Image: UEFA gives national associations access to independent research looking into the current state of football in their respective markets. This data covers a number of different topics, including the general popularity of the sport, the perception of the various national teams, and the image of the governing body itself. This independent review forms the basis for setting up an action plan to address the issues identified through research.

Participation: Following a thorough review of existing data, UEFA GROW supports the national association in drafting a growth plan for participation and retention, which includes the definition of clear yearly targets for different age categories for both men’s and women's football. The plan will also detail the corresponding responsibilities and required programmes and budgets.

UEFA GROW is aiming to help develop football both on and off the pitch
UEFA GROW is aiming to help develop football both on and off the pitch©Sportsfile

Engagement: All national associations nowadays use digital channels and social media to communicate with their football families. Under the Engagement pillar, UEFA GROW is helping national associations to develop a universal digital marketing and FRM (Football Relationship Management) strategy with clearly defined targets for reach, engagement and other metrics.

Revenues: National associations need to have sufficient funds in order to invest in football development and thus be able to grow the game. UEFA GROW supports the federations in setting up a clear commercial strategy and five-year commercial plan with key performance indicators and timings to develop all areas of the commercial revenue wheel.

All of UEFA GROW's pillars are intrinsically linked. If an association has a good reputation in its respective country, more people are likely to play, attend or watch the sport. This could ultimately lead to increased revenue possibilities and digital engagement opportunities.

Following discussions with the national associations, it became clear that UEFA GROW could offer assistance and expertise in other areas of football development. Therefore a decision was taken in 2016 to add some extra pillars in order to address areas such as brand management and how the association communicates with its respective audience at all levels.

Additional follow-up support is available across the following domains:

Strategic planning: UEFA GROW supports national associations in developing a strategic plan for the whole organisation, painting a clear picture of where the organisation is going and defining clear strategic objectives for the next years

Communications: This pillar is about helping to create a clear strategic communications plan that looks to improve the image of the federations and helps them deliver the right messages to the right stakeholders.

How UEFA GROW works
How UEFA GROW works©UEFA.com

Insights: The field of data and insights is becoming increasingly more relevant for the national associations. UEFA GROW provides a number of different services, including giving access to data, sharing best practices and providing benchmarking information. The overall objective is to help national associations become more insight- and data-driven organisations..

Brand: A brand is much more than just a logo and as such, an increasing number of federations are requesting support from UEFA GROW to help them optimise their potential or to help them with other (re)branding projects. Creating a clear brand position for each product will increase the value and revenues that can be derived from the brands.

Public affairs: This pillar focuses on assisting national associations in developing clear strategies for how to form partnerships with government and other public authorities. This is becoming increasingly important as football widens its societal role and scope.

Meanwhile, the programme's successes have led to the creation of additional supporting tools for national associations. In addition to the aforementioned pillars, the UEFA GROW team is now working on numerous projects in order to provide a greater overview of football development across Europe, including the following:

UEFA GROW Dashboard: A platform to keep track of the progress that all national associations are making in GROWing football

UEFA GROW IT Maturity Matrix: A tool which assesses the capabilities of national associations and provides strategic IT support across business functions

UEFA GROW Index: A tool measuring the strength of football across all national associations

UEFA GROW SROI model: A tool for measuring the social return on investment from football mass participation

UEFA GROW has become the central business development platform for national associations to grow the game. Almost 40 national associations have joined UEFA GROW and benefited from this programme to date. The coming years promise to be an exciting and positive experience for the national associations that have adopted and are looking to join UEFA GROW with the ultimate aim of trying to make the game even stronger across Europe.