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The commitment of UEFA and its member national associations to grassroots football – soon to be underlined in a pan-European celebration in Madrid in May – has been reinforced by ten more associations signing the UEFA Grassroots Charter.
Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Israel, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia all signed the charter at various star levels during UEFA's Congress activities in Tel Aviv last month. A total of 47 associations are now members of the UEFA Grassroots Charter.
The charter, created in 2004, represents an endorsement of national associations' grassroots programmes. UEFA motivates, stimulates and supports the associations in consolidating such programmes.
Signing the charter means that an association satisfies certain minimum criteria. Associations enter with basic one-star status (foundation level), and four additional stars are given in relation to specific grassroots areas. These involve the nurturing of women's and girls' football, social projects including disability football, number of participants and the promotion of grassroots football (advanced level). Superior level (i.e. six stars) indicates a highly developed programme, while the premier level (i.e. seven stars) sets the benchmark for grassroots development.
"We have provoked development and change through such things as the Grassroots Charter," said UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh. "Once associations move up to the higher levels, they are reassessed, so the process is dynamic – associations can't rest on their laurels, they have to keep maintaining or improving their standards."
On Wednesday 19 May, three days before the first-ever staging of a UEFA Champions League final on a Saturday, UEFA Grassroots Day will see the European body and its 53 member associations engage in grassroots activities across the continent.
"Placing the Grassroots Day in juxtaposition with the professional showcase match is significant and deliberate because, without the grassroots game, top football would wither and die," said Roxburgh. "It is also true that the superstars and the top clubs stimulate the next generation of players, coaches, referees, officials and fans, and a strong link between the elite and the grassroots has enormous benefits for both levels of football and, consequently, the game in general."
The initiative will enable UEFA's associations to exhibit their grassroots work, while UEFA will lend support in the form of equipment, attendance certificates and T-shirts, as well as publicising the efforts made by the associations to promote and develop the game at that level.
A Grassroots Day website is already up and running to publicise the eagerly anticipated event.
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