Creativity and innovation in strategic development also rewarded as 16 winners honoured at online ceremony.
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Off-field excellence was celebrated this week with the UEFA Grow Awards, which recognise national football association achievements in eight areas of strategic development.
As well as saluting the hard work of the 16 winners, the Grow Awards also provides a Europe-wide platform for sharing best-practice models and strategic initiatives from across UEFA's 55 member national associations.
In 2021, UEFA received 150 applications from projects and programmes in a record 43 associations across the eight award categories, which were whittled down to 24 nominations, with creativity and innovation awards also rewarding new thinking that could bring game-changing results in the future.
The award ceremony was streamed live to associations with the help of football legends Nadine Kessler and Luís Figo, who shared their insights into the game's on-going development as well as discussing their own playing careers.
UEFA President, Aleksander Čeferin
"Dear member associations, it's a great pleasure for me to connect with you on the occasion of the 2021 UEFA Grow Awards and it's truly remarkable that we received a record number of projects – 150 in total during a time when the world, sport and football, has had to deal with serious and unprecedented challenges.
"Your commitment to keep growing football, both on and off the pitch, and to engage with football as a special tool for social development is a source of great pride for UEFA.
"These prestigious Awards are a way for us to thank you and to recognise the invaluable work you are doing. Much of your work is behind the scenes but it makes an important difference every day, leading to more effective business, more impactful programmes and more sustainable national associations.
"I take this opportunity to thank you for all your efforts and I sincerely congratulate the winners in the eight categories."
The 2021 UEFA Grow Awards
Winner: Football Association of Finland (SPL)
Re-branding Finland's top football league for women, the SPL created the National League, removing gender references to reflect the new competition's focus on equality and courage. The launch achieved worldwide media coverage, increasing attendances, social media audience and commercial value.
Nominees: Germany, Iceland
Creativity and innovation award: San Marino
Winner: Romanian Football Federation (FRF)
By upgrading its retail partner, Penny, into a main sponsor, the FRF was able to co-create a new brand of products targeted at football fans in the country and endorsed by the national football team. This came with a powerful advertising campaign that delivered fantastic results through TV, online and social media.
Nominees: Finland, Norway
Creativity and innovation award: Spain
Winner: Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB)
A drop in new grassroots participation due to the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the KNVB to launch a new football festival drawing on the popularity of the men's and women's senior national teams as well as Dutch pop sensation, Snelle. A new app and website helped increase numbers and push participation above 2019 figures.
Nominees: Poland, Serbia
Creativity and innovation award: Italy
COVID-19 community initiative
Winner: Italian Football Federation (FIGC)
Following the outbreak of the pandemic, the FIGC was able to use the power of football to provide comprehensive support to society through three areas: raising awareness of correct behaviours to minimise the spread of infection, opening the NA technical centre to COVID-19 patients and helping to raise funds for medical care and equipment.
Nominees: Croatia, Denmark
Creativity and innovation award: Moldova
Data and insights project
Winner: Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA)
Identifying a need for better understanding and presentation of data within the association, the RBFA has created a series of user-friendly data dashboards that empower users to generate their own insights on subjects ranging from participation to marketing and media value.
Nominees: England, Sweden
Creativity and innovation award: Norway
Fan engagement project
Winner: Portuguese Football Federation (FPF)
The FPF launched a new initiative to attract fans to international matches and tournaments. By launching a new fan club, Portugal+, the association has attracted more than 250,000 fans around the world. By learning from other associations and engaging directly with supporters through a fan engagement team, they were able to sell all available tickets for three of Portugal's four EURO 2020 matches, as well as adding 33,000 new fans to the database during the tournament.
Nominees: Netherlands, Poland
Creativity and innovation winner: Turkey
Organisational development project
Winner: Football Association of Ireland (FAI)
The FAI's new constitution and extensive programme of structural reform was crucial in modernising the organisation, rebuilding stakeholder trust and ensuring it can thrive in the future. By engaging with stakeholders, including UEFA and the UEFA Grow team throughout the process, the FAI has shown that great change can be achieved in a short period of time.
Nominees: Belgium, Russia
Creativity and innovation award: Scotland
Stakeholder support initiative
Winners: Ukrainian Association of Football (UAF)
The UAF's strategic regional development programme helped grow grassroots participation in male and female players by 17,000, adapting to the COVID-19 situation by staging knowledge-sharing webinars with all 25 regional associations from within Ukraine. Successful practices in club development, participation, digital engagement and social impact were shared by regions from Germany, England, Portugal and Poland during the programme.
Nominees: Portugal, Sweden
Creativity and innovation award: Russia
What is UEFA Grow?
Launched in 2015, UEFA Grow aims to strategically nurture the development of European football in close collaboration with each of our 55 national associations.
The Grow programme provides tailor-made support, offering fact-based research and market intelligence to guide UEFA’s member associations in developing a clear vision for growth. Its effects are far-reaching, yet focused on five key points:
- Strategic planning
In late 2021, Grow's social return on investment model identified a precise figure on European football's participation in wider economic, health and social impact. The cost-benefit analysis showed that 13.2 million registered players across 35 countries generates a cumulative €64.68 billion in direct and in-kind savings.