Olympique de Marseille emerge as Best Professional Club in the 2022/23 UEFA Grassroots Awards
The honour comes thanks to the club and its charitable foundation’s support in creating and growing FC La Castellane, a grassroots community club in the north of the city.
Since its birth in 2019, La Castellane has developed into a pillar of the local community, providing social support and a safe place to play for local children and young people. With 15 teams and more than 130 registered players, the club has grown rapidly, introducing a women’s section for 2022/23.
As well as paying fees, donating equipment and training coaches, Marseille also offer Castellane players, staff and volunteers the opportunity to train at the OM Campus, with regular invitations to matches and concerts at their iconic Stade Vélodrome home.
Zvonimir Boban, UEFA technical director & 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.
“We look forward to announcing the winners this week and congratulate them all on their fantastic work.”
Lucie Venet, executive director of OM Foundation said: “We decided to create a football club dedicated to the local community in order to have a sustainable and positive impact on the local community. We knew that children were playing football, but they didn’t have a football club. So, the purpose was really to give them the opportunity to practice football in a club affiliated to the French Football Federation with qualified coaches.”
“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.
“Here, football is a vehicle for many other things. We really want to offer these children the very best that we can. Diversity is a really important area for us. It’s our vision that we give the children new opportunities to really work on cultural awareness, education and training on all the different aspects of their life.”
Best Professional Club 2022/23: Bronze and Silver winners
Silver: Ayr United Football Academy (Scotland)
Scottish second-tier club club Ayr United delivers various projects for local people of all ages. The academy welcomes people regardless of their background or ability to play football and has had a substantial positive impact on the local community.
Bronze: NK Istra 1961 (Croatia)
With almost 400 registered players, including 100 with professional contracts, NK Istra is the leading football club in the region of Istria. The club is highly engaged in society through a range of actions, including activities for kindergartens and primary schools and the publication of a handy guide for grassroots coaches.
UEFA recognition for Finnish community club with 5’000 players
The UEFA Grassroots Award for Best Amateur Club goes to Ilves, which nurtures players of all ages and trains 1,000 volunteers each season.
Based in Tampere, Finland’s third-largest city, Ilves is the largest football club in Finland with more than 5,000 registered players.
The club provides playing opportunities for children as young as three, seniors into their seventies and players living with disability, proof that football really is for everyone.
UEFA research shows that Ilves’ social contribution equates to more than €31m each year, promoting its key message of a healthy lifestyle in kindergartens, local schools and two training centres in the city.
Each season, the club engages and educates 1,000 volunteers to become better coaches, physiotherapists and team managers, offering UEFA-level training. In turn, this has seen the club produce elite-level talent – in 2021, more than 50 youth national team players had come through the Ilves system.
About the UEFA Grassroots Awards
The UEFA Grassroots Awards have been celebrating outstanding contributions and achievements in the game since 2010. Focused on football outside the elite game, the awards turn the floodlights on some of the unsung heroes and inspiring initiatives that make football such a vital part of communities throughout Europe.
Candidates are nominated by Europe’s national football associations, with award winners selected by UEFA’s Development and Technical Assistance committee following recommendations made by the organisation’s Grassroots Panel.
The criteria for Best Professional Club include outstanding non-commercial grassroots work, providing for a wide range of participants and delivering 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.