Iceland becomes latest country to join UEFA GROW programme, which aims to help European football bloom off and on the pitch.
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UEFA GROW is designed to help football flourish in Europe. This innovative programme, which was launched by European football’s governing body in September 2015, aims to boost football growth across the continent through strategic business development collaboration with all of UEFA’s member associations.
The programme covers all aspects of football, both off and on the field of play. UEFA GROW supports national associations to develop across a number of key areas – improving the image of the game, engaging with larger audiences, getting more people to play the game of football and boosting the revenues of national associations. The programme also assists national associations, helping them to create an overall strategic plan, which is strengthened by strong brands, effective communications and government support.
On 20 November, a UEFA GROW workshop kicked off in Iceland, with the island nation becoming the 34th and latest member of the programme. Over the course of the week, The Football Association of Iceland (KSÍ) and UEFA will work together and discuss how the game can be grown in the country.
"UEFA GROW is our central platform for growing football in Europe. It is how we concretely support our 55 national associations to increase the love for football across the continent, based on consultation and working closely with our members," said UEFA’s head of national associations business development Noel Mooney. "We will support the national associations to create a clear growth plan, and we are really pleased that Iceland has joined UEFA GROW."
Upon the conclusion of the initial workshop, UEFA and the national association will agree upon a tailored development plan to strategically and systematically grow the game. This will be achieved by using fact-based research, market intelligence and industry experts to build strategic plans, in order to help develop football in that market.
A number of national associations have already have benefitted from UEFA GROW support, and the Georgian Football Federation (GFF) is certainly no exception. The organisation shared its experiences of working with UEFA GROW, while its vice-president Nika Jgarkava said that the programme came about at “just at the right time.”
"UEFA GROW brought together our senior staff to review four key pillars – the image of football in Georgia, our digital engagement with the Georgian football family, increasing participation in grassroots football in Georgia, and increasing commercial revenues for the GFF," Jgarkava explained.
Before signing up to join UEFA GROW, independent research showed that only 33% of the adult population had ever played football, while only 17% of adults and children were active players.
Since then, Georgian football’s governing body, together with UEFA GROW, have collaborated to put in place clear strategic plans to address the challenges and to take advantage of the clear opportunities for Georgian football.
“We put plans in place to almost quadruple the amount of grassroots participants in Georgia, which includes doubling the number of women and girl players by 2020,” Jgarkava said, adding that the GFF is also taking steps to improve the image of football in the country.
Iceland is at the other end of the spectrum, with participation rates among the highest in Europe. The KSÍ has done an excellent job of getting people of all ages to play the game. Meanwhile, UEFA-funded programmes have seen over 100 new mini-pitches built across the country, giving more people than ever the chance to play football.
“The Iceland Football Association is delighted to be the newest member of UEFA GROW,” said the KSÍ president Gudni Bergsson. “We have had recent success on the pitch with both our male and female national teams, while the sport has been developing strongly. However, we must keep on improving and planning for the future. UEFA GROW is the perfect opportunity for us to examine our progress and, in collaboration with the UEFA GROW team, plan towards the future.”
UEFA GROW is constantly developing and adapting to a changing environment, and is continuing to add extra business development support pillars in order to assist national associations. One area in particular is strategic planning, where the programme will develop an overarching plan for the national association, with clear objectives and Key Performance Indicators.
Likewise, UEFA GROW can help associations develop their brand portfolio and strategic communications plans, in addition to introducing clear strategies for how organisations can form partnerships with government and other public authorities.
All of UEFA GROW’s pillars are intrinsically linked. If an association has a good reputation in its respective country, more people will play, attend or watch the sport. This could ultimately lead to increased revenue possibilities and digital engagement opportunities.
“UEFA GROW continues to evolve to cater for a changing world and the diverse needs of our national associations,” said Mooney. “There is a huge amount of work going on, and new, exciting services are being built which will strengthen the position of football. The next few years will be incredibly exciting and positive for national associations that adopt the UEFA GROW philosophy, and together, in collaboration, we will build a much stronger game across UEFA.”