The Latvian Football Federation (LFF) – proud hosts of Wednesday's UEFA GROW Awards – is doing outstanding work in developing football at all levels across the country, thanks to a variety of joint initiatives with UEFA.
Article top media content
Wednesday 31 October sees the culmination of months of hard work by UEFA's national associations, with the 2018 UEFA GROW Awards taking place in Riga, Latvia.
The aim of this prize-giving event is to reward and endorse the initiatives and successes of the UEFA member federations, while also collecting and communicating best-practice models from around Europe.
Ahead of the Awards, a record 106 applications were submitted by 44 national associations across five categories: image, participation, engagement, revenues and women's football marketing. A jury comprising five experts will select the overall winner in each section.
"UEFA GROW is our central business development support programme nurturing football across Europe," said UEFA's national associations director Zoran Lakovič.
"UEFA GROW offers tailor-made consultancy services to our national associations in the areas that are most relevant for football organisations, from improving football's image to increasing revenue opportunities and getting more people to play our beautiful game."
GROWing the game
In July, the Latvian Football Federation (LFF) held a workshop with UEFA GROW to target areas such as strategic planning, commercial/marketing activities and revenue growth, effective strategic communication and public affairs.
Key aims for the LFF also include boosting participation figures, developing grassroots activities and, in particular, attracting more girls and women to get involved.
Since the workshop, the LFF has embarked on an exciting journey to overhaul its brand identity for both football in the country and the national team. The LFF and UEFA GROW are now working together on the development of an all-inclusive positioning of the various brand properties and corresponding brand architecture.
"We have been working on football development in a number of areas, starting with strategy creation, good governance, public affairs and commercial matters," LFF general secretary Edgars Pukinsks said following its first brand workshop with UEFA GROW.
"The workshop provided us with the opportunity to link all those areas because it focused primarily on the organisational culture, values and strategic objectives. I can already see that by the end of this process, we will have a clear business development plan and of course a nice visual identity."
For the new visual identity, a fresh logo has been created for the national team, which consists of the national flag and a football. And to forge closer links with the fans, a wolf has been designated the team's mascot, given that the animal symbolises such traits as leadership, loyalty and team spirit.
Investing back into football
While UEFA is committed to taking steps to ensure that national associations expand their potential off the pitch, the governing body also strives to provide footballers of all ages with the best possible facilities through its HatTrick initiative.
HatTrick is funded by revenues from the UEFA European Championship and has invested more than €1.8bn back into the game since its introduction in the wake of UEFA EURO 2004. The scheme has helped UEFA members build national training centres and fund grassroots projects to develop football at all levels.
The LFF has been using the funds it receives from UEFA to construct top-quality football facilities throughout Latvia. For example, 12 full-size pitches and seven smaller playing surfaces were built, positioned close to schools and sports centres to maximise usage. The pitches have also been used for numerous official league matches as well as youth tournaments.
Now the LFF intends to follow up these initial investments by implementing a development strategy entitled 'Football in the heart of Latvia 2017–2024', which will continue to enhance the country's footballing infrastructure.
In cooperation with UEFA and local municipalities, the association wants to construct another full-sized artificial pitch, plus four smaller artificial playing surfaces. Moreover, a further three artificial pitches will be upgraded, along with five existing stadiums currently utilised by clubs.
"It is important that we try to attract as many people of all ages to play football," said LFF president Kaspars Gorkšs. "Football is important for the well-being of our nation and it is our duty to ensure that especially our younger generations have the best possible infrastructure in which to play the sport."