Teamwork was the name of the game for the Football Association of Wales (FAW) as it staged a highly successful 2013 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship from 19–31 August.
According to tournament director Rebecca Crockett, it was thanks to "everyone mucking in" that Wales underlined its credentials as both tournament organiser and women's footballing nation. "We've definitely raised the profile of women's football in Wales and this is also the first final tournament we've had in the country," Crockett told UEFA.com. "We've shown we can do it."
Crockett counted on a dedicated core team including Ceri Stennett, Mark Evans, Leighton Norris, Sian Gifford, Hywel Edwards, David Hayman and Rachel Shiner to handle the various tournament logistics, yet the FAW's entire full-time staff – numbering about 35 – assisted in the project.
"Almost everyone was given objectives related to the finals," Crockett said. "For example a couple of colleagues were working on the marketing and promotional aspects on top of their normal duties. The staff really bought into it. Everyone was involved in some way, whether at the match, training venues or tournament base. It's been an education for us."
The FAW's debut as championship host was three years in the making: from bidding in July 2010 and being accepted three months later, to holding the event in south-west Wales this past fortnight. In between times, Crockett and her colleagues attended the Women's U19 finals in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – "when we were considering bidding" – Italy and Turkey last year. "It was helpful to see how it's done," she said.
Preparations intensified these last six months, while the four match venues of Parc y Scarlets (Llanelli), Stebonheath Park (Llanelli), Richmond Park (Carmarthen) and Bridge Meadow (Haverfordwest) all received some form of upgrade. "New facilities such as a media gantry, dressing room block or internal work within the existing infrastructure," Crockett added.
Where Parc y Scarlets usually serves as a top-flight rugby stadium, the other three grounds house Welsh football league teams Carmarthen Town FC, Haverfordwest County FC and Llanelli FC, whose involvement was "good for their standing and a reward for putting so much work into their pitches and taking such pride in their clubs".
Other stakeholders were the six men's (or women's) clubs from the top two divisions who provided, alongside Swansea University and Swansea City AFC, the eight training venues.
The FAW worked especially hard to get local communities engaged with the championship. A publicity campaign deployed the association's website, advertising at venues or local events, social media and school visits to attract about 150 people to the volunteer programme, as well as ball boys and girls – approximately 50 youngsters performed this role at each game.
"It was a challenge, but we had loads of volunteers, lots of children wanting to get involved with the youth programme, decent attendances, and hopefully we'll see people continuing to come to watch women's football." With this in mind, a half-time parade during the England-France final heralded the start of the fourth season of the Welsh Women's Premier League.
The hope is that those who have been touched by the tournament will continue to figure in football at some level, grassroots or professional, both on and off the pitch. "It's been great to see the crowds coming – we topped 1,000 at a couple of Wales games and at the final – and the feedback from volunteers and everyone has been great," Crockett said.
"We've had a lot of children involved and a big audience among whom to promote playing football, so we'll have to see the legacy we've left. Hopefully it will be reflected in the playing figures, but I think we've met a lot of what we set out to do."
That legacy may also include further hosting opportunities for Wales. "I hope we can have things like this again in the future," concluded the tournament director. "Maybe that's been the best thing."
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