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Clubs key to enhancing the European grassroots game

A new grassroots club development framework was presented to delegates at the UEFA Grassroots Conference in Madrid on Wednesday.

Getty Images for Nike

The second day of the conference, which brings together technical development specialists from UEFA's member football associations, was dedicated to the development of grassroots clubs, which provide the core base of the game across Europe.

With good clubs come good experiences, improving the overall standard of the game and promoting a lifelong love of the sport. It is therefore essential that national and regional associations support their clubs in on- and off-pitch activities.

This has led to the launch of UEFA's new grassroots club development framework, which will help national associations create their own vision for improving the quality of the club community and enhancing players’ experiences by ensuring a positive, safe and enjoyable environment for participants of all ages and abilities.

There are already many great examples of grassroots club development initiatives throughout Europe, and in Madrid, delegates heard from their Austrian, Dutch, English, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish colleagues on examples of best practice.

UEFA's grassroots club development framework

Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) director of football development Lennard van Ruiven:

"Players are the most important thing, and if you develop the clubs, then you are helping the players reach their potential. If we across Europe can create better clubs, we create a better environment and experience for the players and UEFA is doing important work in helping associations understand why this is important.

"Most clubs are also centred in their community and play a bigger role than just offering football and we saw during the pandemic how powerful that can be for society.

"At the KNVB, we work to educate club leaders who sets the standards within clubs of all sizes and safeguarding is an important part of that education. We also help to audit and review the clubs with external experts, providing them with a mirror to assess where they are and how they can develop.

"Events like this Grassroots Conference are very important. There is a lot of knowledge in the room and many diverse landscapes, so all the associations can learn from each other. It's a great exchange, and with UEFA setting the standard, we can all move together in the right direction. We have come a long way in the three years since the previous conference, and hopefully we will look back at this one in the future and realise that we have grown even more."

Key pillars of the club development framework

Player-focused development

Developing clubs with a focus on giving everyone the opportunity to play, enjoy and be a part of football.

Environment

Creating inclusive clubs that play an active part in their local communities, contributing to the well-being and fulfilment of their members and wider society.

The game

Supporting the development of a grassroots philosophy, player pathways and flexible football provision to support the local community.

Workforce

Educating volunteers, staff and coaches to build clubs' workforces in support of their administration and activities.

Social responsibility in the grassroots game

Attendees also heard from UEFA experts on the topic of sustainability in grassroots football.

Attendees also heard from UEFA experts on the topic of sustainability in grassroots football. Our new football sustainability strategy, ‘Strength through Unity’, features 11 key policies to help the game in Europe become more socially responsible and environmentally friendly at all levels. It invites all football stakeholders to collaborate around a shared agenda and using a common language.

One of those policies is Child & Youth Protection, which aims to ensure a safe and empowering environment for all children and youth to play football – intrinsic to the grassroots game. Wednesday’s presentation outlined UEFA’s work with Terre des Hommes to create our first Child Safeguarding Toolkit, which is available for free and helps stakeholders to develop their own youth protection policies.

UEFA's child safeguarding toolkit