UEFA Grassroots Football Week 2020: protecting the purest form of the game

Learn how UEFA and its member associations are working together to find new ways of supporting grassroots football.

UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin launched the UEFA Grassroots Football in Schools Festival in Ljubljana last September
UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin launched the UEFA Grassroots Football in Schools Festival in Ljubljana last September UEFA via Getty Images

UEFA kicks off its annual Grassroots Week today, with the 2020 edition highlighting the importance of ensuring everyone, everywhere can continue to safely play the world’s number one sport – in their own garden, at school or with a local amateur club.

Over the next week, UEFA.com and our official social media channels will be celebrating the non-professional game with a series of articles, images and video dedicated to grassroots.

We will hear from leading figures in the coaching world about the importance of grassroots football, with advice from legends for children and parents just starting out in football.

Later in the week, we will also be asking fans and players for their own input as we share some of the best grassroots imagery from around Europe and beyond on our Twitter and Instagram channels. This will be your opportunity to get involved and show the world your love for the game, no matter where you are and how you enjoy it.

“Grassroots football is the lifeblood of football”

While most of Europe’s professional leagues have started the new season, some national associations have postponed grassroots football competitions and activities to comply with emergency health measures.

“Grassroots football is the lifeblood of football. Without grassroots football, there would be no elite football,” warns UEFA president, Aleksander Čeferin. “UEFA is working constantly to help national associations ensure that all grassroots football is played in safe and quality-controlled environments.”

Grassroots football is any form of the game beneath a professional level
Grassroots football is any form of the game beneath a professional levelUEFA via Getty Images

Webinars to roll out Football in Schools

Over the past six months, UEFA has staged online learning webinars and programmes to help each of its 55 member associations develop four-year Football in Schools plans. This is a key first step in meeting the long-term goals of the Europe-wide UEFA Football in Schools, programme launched last year to ensure children can enjoy and benefit from their first impact with physical activity, in particular, football.

“(Grassroots football) is especially critical for young children, for their health and their education and general well-being,” says the UEFA president, underlining football’s role in promoting social values.

“Playing football keeps them active and teaches them vital life skills, such as teamwork and respect.”

Over the next four seasons, European football’s governing body will channel €11 million in funding to support the Football in Schools initiative – one quarter of the total €44 million earmarked for UEFA grassroots football support to national associations from 2020-2024.

Online network of grassroots football experts

With face-to-face meetings impractical in current circumstances, UEFA has created an online community, which brings together a Europe-wide network of grassroots’ football experts. This provides a forum for national associations to learn from each other how best to adapt and protect the purest form of the game.

Walking football also comes under UEFA's Grassroots programmes
Walking football also comes under UEFA's Grassroots programmesUEFA via Getty Images

Examples of new thinking from national associations across Europe include:

Corona Guide

The Norwegian Football Association has created an online “Corona Guide” listing all the precautions a club and player must take to comply with health regulations.

It includes a mandatory e-learning module on COVID-19 for all players over 13 years of age. It includes an introduction to the virus, an explanation of how football should manage the situation and a final exam. To date, 100,000 players completed the module.

Free Play

Many clubs and organisations are starting to run Free Play sessions to overcome restrictions around organised competitions. This approach encourages young players to pick their own teams.

"Giving children free opportunity to play with less rules during practices increases their joy of the game,” says Carl Darlington, Head of Coach Education for the Football Association of Wales.

Digital

In current circumstances, social media is increasingly becoming the safest, most reliable way for coaches and mentors to communicate regularly with players and parents. Many national associations and local clubs are sharing training guidelines through social media videos and apps.

UEFA Grassroots Football Charter

UEFA’s historic commitment to ensuring everybody, everywhere has the opportunity to play football in a safe and quality-controlled environment is enshrined in its Grassroots Football Charter. This sets common standards across Europe, ensuring national associations use UEFA grants to target three specific grassroots activities:

• coach education

• club development

• football in schools