Scottish Para-Football, the world’s first ever para-football Affiliated National Association, has been honoured for its impact in promoting inclusivity in Scottish football with a prestigious UEFA award.
The 2021/2022 UEFA Grassroots Awards saw the milestone landmark in global para-football win the GOLD Award in the Best Disability Initiative category.
In winning the UEFA award, Scottish Para-Football is recognised as an outstanding grassroots football project for people with disabilities run by a regional association, an organisation for people with disabilities or an individual.
Scottish Para-Football was launched by the Scottish FA in 2019 following an investment of £100,000, bringing nine different organisations governing various styles of para-football in Scotland under one national umbrella.
The nine organisations within Scottish Para-Football represent a variety of styles of para-football, including Amputee Football, Cerebral Palsy Football, Deaf Football, Frame Football, Learning Disability Football, Autism Football, Football Memories, Mental Health Football and Powerchair Football.
The UEFA Grassroots awards recognise leaders, clubs and projects throughout Europe for their outstanding commitment and contribution to grassroots football, celebrating some unsung heroes at the bedrock of the game.
UEFA has highlighted grassroots heroes of Europe’s most popular sport every year since 2010, showcasing the people, projects and places that ensure everyone, regardless of their age, ability, gender or background, can play football in a safe environment – the key objective of UEFA’s grassroots programme.
Ashley Reid, Chair of Scottish PARA Football, said: “This is fantastic news for Scottish Para-Football and everyone involved. There has been a lot of hard work to put together a structure that has allowed the sport to develop and provide so many opportunities to everyone involved, and this award is testament to that.
“Everyone at Scottish Para-Football is delighted with this award and we will strive to continue to provide a platform for more development, investment and opportunities within Scottish Football, setting a benchmark for para-football in Europe.”
Scottish FA Chief Executive Ian Maxwell said: “The launch of Scottish Para-Football in 2019 was a true landmark for both Scottish football and para-athletes and it is heart-warming to see the positive impact that it has had in our goal to make football more inclusive in Scotland.
“Para-football is a cornerstone of the Scottish FA’s strategy to showcase ‘the Power of Football’ and there are few better examples of that than striving through this initiative to open the game up to all who want to participate.
“Providing a platform for all those involved in para-football across the nation to have a voice in the running of our national game is a fantastic illustration of the Scottish FA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“We are grateful to UEFA for their support in this wonderful initiative and thank them for recognising the work of all involved in growing para-football across Scotland with this award.”
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said: "Selecting the winners of the UEFA Grassroots Awards is always an enjoyable and inspiring task. It highlights the impressive, inclusive, and noteworthy projects of national associations and clubs across the continent, whose influence often sways beyond sports.
"Congratulations to the winners, and I wish you and all the nominees even more future success as you continue to forge these outstanding projects that have an essential impact on the game's growth and your communities."
A second Scottish grassroots initiative was also successful in the UEFA awards, with Time To Tackle winning the Silver Award in the Best Society Initiative category.
Founded by husband and wife Aaron and Siobhán Connolly, Time to Tackle was launched in October 2019 following Aaron’s long battle with poor mental health. It aims to help tackle poor mental health, poor physical health, stigma and loneliness using the power of football and peer support.