OM takes Gold in UEFA’s Grassroots Awards; Ayr United, NK Istra and Ilves shine

April 21 – Olympique de Marseille have been named Best Professional Club in the 2022/23 UEFA Grassroots Awards for its creation and support of FC La Castellane, a grassroots community club in the north of the city.

The UEFA grassroots awards celebrate outstanding contributions and achievements in football outside the elite game. The criteria for Best Professional Club include outstanding non-commercial grassroots work that creates participation opportunities and delivers a positive social impact.

“Judges looked for a club with an inclusive agenda or specific social objective that demonstrates commitment to its role in society, the local community and the grassroots game,” said UEFA.

Since formation in 2019, La Castellane has developed into a pillar of the local community, providing social support and a safe place to play. With 15 teams and more than 130 registered players, the club has grown rapidly, introducing a women’s section for 2022/23.

OM have supported the club paying fees, donating equipment and training coaches, while Castellane players, staff and volunteers have had the opportunity to train at the OM Campus, and attend matches at the Stade Vélodrome.

Lucie Venet, executive director of OM Foundation said: “La Castellane is more than just a football club. The purpose is really to offer new opportunities and have a positive impact on the players, not only as players, but as the citizens of tomorrow.

Scottish second-tier club club Ayr United won the silver award for its delivery of various projects for local people of all ages. In particular the academy welcomes people regardless of their background or ability to play football and has had a substantial positive impact on the local community.

Croatia’s NK Istra 1961 won the bronze award. The club has almost 400 registered players, including 100 with professional contracts. The club is rooted deep in its local community with a a range of projects, including activities for kindergartens and primary schools.

Finnish community club Ilves, with more than 5,000 players, won the UEFA Grassroots Award for Best Amateur Club.

Based in Tampere, Ilves trains over 1,000 volunteers a season. The club provides playing opportunities for children as young as three, and for seniors into their seventies, as well as for players living with disability. In 2021, more than 50 youth national team players had come through the Ilves system.

UEFA research found that Ilves’ social contribution equates to more than €31 million each year.

Zvonimir Boban, UEFA technical director and chief of football said: “Every player we see on our screens in UEFA competitions began their journey on a local pitch with friends or family. The elite game relies on a strong grassroots base, and that is why it is imperative that we celebrate the lesser-known stars who are bringing the game to people of all ages and abilities across Europe.”

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