UEFA to honour recipients for their outstanding work and commitment
to sustainability and anti-discrimination issues.
Article top media content
UEFA is proud to announce that the Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA), DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga GmbH, Arsenal FC and former France international Lilian Thuram are the inaugural recipients of the UEFA FootbALL Awards for their outstanding contributions to football on and off the pitch. The awards will be presented and livestreamed at the 2023 UEFA RESPECT Forum taking place in Frankfurt, Germany from 28-29 June.
Launched at the UEFA Champions League final earlier this month, the FootbALL programme highlights the power of football to drive positive social change across European communities and advocates that the game is open to all to enjoy, play, learn and develop. The programme is composed of three pillars – the Campaign, the Platform, and the Activation – which tie together all of UEFA’s social sustainability initiatives, events and campaigns.
One national association, one league, one club and one former player were selected for the awards by UEFA’s Human Rights Steering Group based on their work, which encapsulates the ideals of the FootbALL programme initiatives.
“On behalf of the entire European football family, it is my great privilege to congratulate the four esteemed winners of the inaugural FootbALL Awards,” said Michele Uva, UEFA Director of Social & Environmental Sustainability. “Their work showcases the importance of leading by example, which is exactly what the FootbALL programme represents. I hope it will inspire others to take action for the betterment of our game on the pitch, and the betterment society off the pitch.”
Royal Belgian Football Association
The RBFA has taken a proactive approach to sustainability and was one of the first national associations to establish a comprehensive football social responsibility strategy.
Furthermore, they have enacted concrete anti-discriminatory programmes and resources for refugees and disabled members of the football family. In 2021, they launched the 'Come Together' action plan with the goal of bringing everyone together on the football pitch to eradicate discrimination, racism, homophobia and other forms of inequality.
The RBFA also strives to ensure everyone has access to football, and as a result, several national handifoot teams have been created for those with intellectual or motor disabilities to play football in a category reserved exclusively for them. They currently have five national disability football teams: Belgian Blind Devils, Belgian Deaf Devils (senior, under-21, futsal and youth teams) Red Flamingos, Special Devils (level 1, 2 and 3) and Special Flames. For each of these disability football disciplines, both European Championships, World Cups and international matches are organised.
DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga GmbH
The DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga is being recognised for their continuous fight against discrimination and for their activities during International Weeks Against Racism. During the 2022/23 season between 20 March and 2 April, the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga, the DFL, DFL Stiftung and the 36 professional clubs in Germany’s top two divisions came together to make a clear statement against racism and racial discrimination. This included signs of solidarity through walk-on shirts and shoelaces, calls to action from the DFL, the DFL Foundation and the professional clubs via the various digital communication channels and a special ball stand.
Furthermore, the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga are the first major professional football leagues to include mandatory sustainability criteria in their licensing regulations. The criteria became applicable for the first time in the licensing process for the 2023/24 season.
The north London club are committed to helping keep young people safe from knife crime and youth violence through No More Red. In conjunction with adidas, No More Red builds on Arsenal’s work in the local community to address some of the root causes of knife crime and youth violence, and provide safe spaces and positive opportunities for young people.
Arsenal are also the first club to fully integrate British Sign Language into every home game. Their matchday show now has a certified British Sign Language interpreter, with all club content on the stadium screens accessible to deaf supporters. This includes a ‘goal’ hand sign motion graphic broadcasted when the team scores. Arsenal’s Disability Liaison Team also support visitors at all men’s home and away games, as well as women’s home games.
A 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000 champion, the former France international has also been a force off the pitch as a long-time anti-racism advocate. The Lilian Thuram Foundation, found in 2008, has worked tirelessly through various education programmes to dismantle racist prejudices and behaviours in society.
Thuram has also established himself as a respected author with works such as My Black Stars: From Lucy to Barack Obama released in 2010. In this book, Thuram challenges the prevailing narratives of history and culture and sheds light on black stories that were neglected during his childhood. His insightful publications delve into the roots of racial inequality while drawing attention to unconscious and unintentional discriminatory practices.
Note to media:
The four winners will receive a unique and exclusively designed award by Italian artist Andrea Roggi. The award symbolises a world created by the joining together of all people, the key message being that, by holding hands and tied in a universal embrace, individuals break down the barriers that keep them apart.
You can watch the UEFA RESPECT Forum talks and discussions live on UEFA.com. Tune in from 9:30 CET on Wednesday 28 June at www.uefa.com/sustainability. The FootbALL Awards ceremony will start at 12:15 CET.
More details and insights on our sustainability work can be found in the latest UEFA RESPECT Report.