Grassroots football may be on hold across Europe but in Bulgaria, a new complex of mini pitches represents a bright future thanks to UEFA support.
Article top media content
It is a frustrating time for grassroots footballers across Europe, but in a corner of Bulgaria, there is excitement for what lies ahead thanks to the inauguration of an outstanding new community facility, funded by UEFA.
A new complex of mini-pitches was opened in Kazanlak, in the centre of the country, by the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) last month following investment through the UEFA HatTrick programme.
It means that when action returns, local players, coaches and clubs will have the use of three new floodlit artificial pitches for year-round use.
Borislav Popov, BFU general secretary, is delighted with what the Kazanlak facilities will offer to the local community following a challenging period.
"This excites us, but also obliges us to continue to promote football to reach every one of our fellow citizens - men and women, boys and girls," he said, adding the organisation's main focus is committed to "the development and improvement of football infrastructure."
What do the new facilities in Kazanlak offer local players?
- Three floodlit 40m x 25m mini-pitches
- A covered 114-seat stand with a storage room for sports equipment
- Two dressing rooms with shower cabins and all the necessary sanitary facilities
- Press conference room with 14 seats
- Two parking areas for a total of approximately 30 cars
How HatTrick is helping European football recover and grow
The new facility in Bulgaria is just the latest in a long line of successes of the HatTrick initiative, which is based on the simple idea of investing a large proportion of European Championship revenue back into football development in three (hence its name) different ways: investment, education and knowledge-sharing.
Launched following the UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal, and is one of the largest solidarity and development programmes ever to be established by a sports organisation.
"With clear and precise rules and guidelines, this programme provides national associations with ample opportunities to prepare and implement projects to improve their football infrastructure, tailored to their needs and strategy for the development of football," Popov said.
"With the support of the UEFA HatTrick programme, the BFU receives timely and specific consultation and recommendations for the implementation of projects such as the mini-football complex in Kazanlak, which is enjoying active support from local authorities and the football community."
By 2024, the HatTrick programme will have made a remarkable €2.6 bn available to its member associations over the past 20 years, with the most recent cycle, launched in July 2020, committing €775.5m over the next four years.
National associations across Europe rely on HatTrick incentive payments to implement many of UEFA's programmes: anti-match fixing and integrity initiatives, the club licensing system, elite youth player development, good governance, grassroots football, women’s football, national coaching courses, referee training, social responsibility projects, travel expenses for national teams and UEFA youth, women’s, futsal and amateur competitions.
HatTrick’s contribution to the welfare of European football was never clearer than when the pandemic brought the game to a temporary halt. Despite the postponement of EURO 2020, UEFA quickly reassured national associations that it would honour the next four-year commitment, with €236.5m made available ahead of schedule to help meet the challenges of the pandemic.