The Irish Football Association (IFA) has received the 2013 UEFA HatTrick Award for its SCORE pilot women's football development project which was presented to them by UEFA Executive Committee member and UEFA HatTrick Committee chairman Allan Hansen at the association's annual general meeting in Enniskillen.
The SCORE project had three main objectives – educational, in providing 50 volunteers with a bursary enabling them to undertake a coach education course; development-related, with each SCORE coach giving 12 coaching sessions within their local schools and local junior club; and a competition element encouraging all women's clubs participating in the SCORE Pilot Project to deliver holiday camps at Easter and during the summer.
"As you are all aware, the premise of the HatTrick Programme is to redirect revenue from our major competitions back into the sport and to encourage all nationals associations to upgrade facilities and develop the game," said Hansen in presenting the award to IFA president Jim Shaw.
"When we speak of development – we speak of a dynamic of growth and improvement – the Irish Football Association has done precisely that," he added. "The IFA has been a model association when it comes to the efficient use of this programme. The fact that we had a small part in supporting you makes us at UEFA feel very proud."
Hansen went on to speak of the many excellent projects being developed by UEFA's member national associations and the five awards categories – grassroots, infrastructure-related investment, social and special projects and women's football development.
"The idea of the HatTrick Awards came about as a means to provide a reward and to showcase some of the more outstanding projects," he continued. "These awards therefore offer the opportunity to single out some of these shining examples and provide the national associations with the recognition they deserve for their achievements. We defined different award categories as a means to ensure that the different types of projects are recognised for their specificity."
"Women's football development is a fairly new area receiving focussed attention at UEFA. Of course, our competitions until now have served to drive development to a certain degree," Hansen explained, "but in 2010 the UEFA Executive Committee decided to allocate HatTrick funding to women's football development, an area we believe has incredible upward potential."
"If we look at the FIFA Women's World Cup, the Olympics, or the UEFA Women's Champions League," he reflected, "we can start to see the massive strides that have been taken in terms of the technical abilities, the increasing attendances and the professionalisation of the women's game."
"We at UEFA believe every girl should be able to do what is most fun and that is of course, playing football," Hansen said. "The UEFA women's football development programme was therefore put together with this as its main goal, with our vision remaining very much focused on growing the base of the game.
"We believe that opportunities should be provided to all girls and women who want to play football within their community, regardless of skill or talent, offering them a safe environment in which to play. With the women's football development programme, we will strive to achieve this together with the national associations."
"Our HatTrick Award Jury, saw the [IFA project] as the one which had the largest impact," Hansen concluded. "Not only were the number of registered youth players doubled in a short space of time, but over 3,000 girls were introduced to the sport.
"Licenced female coaches were also significantly increased. What is more impressive is that the SCORE project's clever arrangement made it possible for not only girls to gain an easier access to playing in a safe environment, thanks to the school-club link up, but also volunteers were trained up as coaches, thus getting whole communities engaged in girls football. This project certainly reflected our vision."
The last word goes to IFA women's football manager Sara Booth, who was key to the SCORE project: "Without the UEFA Women's Football Development Programme funding, this project would not have happened."
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