Grassroots football delivers a near-£100m positive societal impact across Aberdeenshire, according to a new European study published today.

The report, commissioned by UEFA, European football’s governing body, in conjunction with the Scottish FA and Aberdeen FC Community Trust, uncovers “unique tangible evidence” of the impact participation in Scotland’s national sport has on the city and region’s economic, social and health benefits, as well as nationwide.

Of a total social return on investment (SROI) of £97m across Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire, the report highlights a direct economic impact and social benefit of more than £29m, with a preventative health spend of more than £70m from the non-professional, or recreational, game.

Within these figures, the region is reported to benefit from 1300 jobs thanks to football, has volunteering roles with a total social benefit value of £12m in total and saves the National Health Service £4.5m in mental health provision.

Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire are among the first regions across Europe to undertake the SROI model, part of UEFA’s GROW programme.

It is designed “to create a step-change in grassroots funding by providing unique and tangible evidence that investing in mass participation has a significant impact in terms of economic value, social and health benefits”.

The local and national research was undertaken with the expert help of an advisory panel gleaned from educational establishments such as Birmingham, Brunel and Loughborough Universities.

Across Scotland the study revealed a total SROI of £1.25bn, the direct economic impact of more than £300m and a preventative health spend of £800m.

Steven Sweeney, Aberdeen Community Trust Operations Manager: “Aberdeen FC Community Trust are delighted to be working alongside UEFA, Scottish FA, sportscotland and partners to demonstrate the true value of football participation and the impact it has within local communities.

"We feel that football clubs have a significant part to play in improving public health, contributing to the local economy and using sport and physical activity for social change.

"We would like to thank partners such as Inverurie Loco Works FC and Peterhead FC, who through our innovative partnerships allow these benefits to ripple further across the region and its communities.”

In direct contribution to the Aberdeen city and shire economy, football generates £3.7m in new facility economic value and £13.1m in participation spending value, while social benefits include £779,000 in improved education and £65,000 in crime reduction.

Healthcare savings from football participation valued subjective wellbeing at £63.4m, with savings to the National Health Service including £4m in mental health provision, £2.44m in cardiovascular disease and £1m in type- diabetes.

Ian Maxwell, Scottish FA Chief Executive: “We have known for decades the positive impact football as the national sport has on the population: it can inspire a nation, unite families and entire communities, and make society a better place.

“The findings in the UEFA GROW report outline the extent to which football is a force for good in helping to deliver the Scottish Government’s health and wellbeing agenda, and also the dramatic impact the national game has on the economy.

“We committed to this project to reaffirm football’s place as an essential fabric of Scottish society and we are pleased to present these findings to the Scottish Government.

"We are grateful for their ongoing support to the many grassroots projects and look forward to having more substantive conversations with the First Minister and her key cabinet secretaries to make even greater inroads in in improving the health and wellbeing of Scottish society through the power of football, whilst reinforcing our position as a major contributor to the country’s economy.”

Zoran Laković, UEFA National Associations Director: “UEFA GROW is our central business development support programme to nurture football across Europe. UEFA GROW offers tailor-made consultation services to our national associations in the areas that are most relevant for football organisations, from building a better image of football, to increasing revenue opportunities and getting more people to play our beautiful game.

“We are pleased to have worked in collaboration with the Scottish FA and its key stakeholders to provide tangible evidence of its social return on investment. Football is synonymous with Scotland and we look forward to seeing how the Scottish FA works with its local government at all levels to build on these findings for the good of football and society.”

Kirsty Blackman, MP for Aberdeen North: “Aberdeen Football Club is an essential part of the DNA of Aberdeen City and Shire. As a family friendly community orientated club, it’s always been clear that the positive impact of football goes far beyond 90 minutes at the weekend. The Community Trust’s work is invaluable.

"Getting active is particularly important for people who are battling mental health problems and I can’t imagine a better way to encourage this than football games, coaching and skills. I’m delighted to see the results of this study - it’s great recognition for those Aberdeen FC Community Trust staff and volunteers who have worked so hard to make a difference.”

Scottish FA's UEFA GROW Social Return On Investment Report