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Five years of Growing the game

About UEFA

Having celebrated its fifth birthday in 2020, the UEFA Grow programme continues to have a far-reaching and positive impact on European football's member associations.

Over the past five years, the UEFA Grow programme has contributed to the development of football in every one of European football's 55 member associations.

Launched in the autumn of 2015 with the aim of helping national associations to maximise their potential on and off the pitch, the Grow programme provides tailor-made support, offering fact-based research and market intelligence to guide UEFA’s member associations in developing a strategic vision.

"What used to be a marketing support initiative is now our central strategic development platform for national associations to grow the game and it has become a key contributor to raising national association standards in line with the UEFA strategy, 'Together for the Future of Football'", says Karl-Erik Nilsson, president of the Swedish Football Association and UEFA first vice-president.

Grow's five focus points

UEFA Football Federations of the Future

- Strategic planning
- Participation
- Image
- Engagement
- Revenues

"Many important areas have been added to the programme, including strategic planning, insights, IT and strategic communications support," Nilsson explains.

"The evolution culminated in last year’s launch of Football Federations of the Future, laying out a clear road map for national associations on how they can grow the game in their market over the next years.

"We continue to identify areas where support is needed and requested by our national associations. Two key pillars we are building at the moment are financial management and human resource management. These two areas will further diversify the support portfolio that the UEFA Grow programme has to offer, making it even more versatile and offering the most practical of support to our 55 member associations, no matter where they are on their strategic football development journey."

Below, we take a look at some important success stories from the first five years of the UEFA Grow programme.

Getting people playing

So far, the Grow programme has helped 44 national associations to develop bespoke participation plans, and among those with set targets, there was an average rise of 11 per cent in registered players (as opposed to a four per cent decrease among the others).

Similarly, those associations which completed Grow participation workshops witnessed a 42 per cent growth in women’s and girls’ football (as opposed to four per cent). By way of example, in Romania between 2015 and 2017, the number of boys registered at Under-10 level rose from 8,411 to 63,530, and for Under-10 girls, the rise was from 0 to 31,580.

Through the Grow participation framework, national associations are able to conduct a self-assessment on their current status in participation and receive guidelines for development. This has led, for instance, to the Polish Football Association hiring 48 people in the field of participation development (three for every region), with a target of increasing the number of registered players from 400,000 to over one million by 2022.

In late 2020, Grow's social return on investment model was able to put a precise figure on football participation's wider economic, health and social impact across Europe. The cost-benefit analysis showed that 8.6 million registered players across 25 countries generates a cumulative €39.4 billion in direct and in-kind savings.

How can you value football's impact?

Getting it right off the pitch

Kalr-Erik Nilsson presenting the new UEFA strategy at a UEFA Grow conference
Kalr-Erik Nilsson presenting the new UEFA strategy at a UEFA Grow conference©UEFA.com

Since its kick-off in 2019, the Football Federations of the Future framework, covering 14 core business development pillars, helps national associations establish a vision for the next five years. The Grow team has already engaged with 15 national associations through the project’s self-evaluation process.

Commercial planning is a crucial element of Grow's support. After a UEFA review of its commercial strategy, the Football Association of Iceland’s improvement plan brought about a 300 per cent increase in sponsor revenue. A similar review in 2019 helped the Royal Belgian Football Association oversee a 50 per cent increase in its commercial revenue up to 2021, compared with its 2018 figures.

And recently, UEFA’s wish to provide further financial guidance to associations – more important than even given the fresh challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic – led to the Grow team offering an Executive Financial Essentials course, beginning in autumn 2020, as part of its business development programme.

A culture of collaboration

With many of 2020's plans disrupted due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, Grow's regular national association workshops have become webinars, with hundreds of attendees tuning in to quarterly online meetings.

The fourth and final webinar recently highlighted successes and future plans in Belgium, Moldova and Sweden, fostering a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing among the European football community.