Friday, October 04, 2013

SFA Grassroots Awards 2013

SFA Grassroots Awards 2013, The Scottish Football Blog
2013 People's Award winner Pat Griffin
To Hampden last week. Suited, booted and ready to enjoy the annual SFA Grassroots Awards.

Anybody that has played football in this country will have relied on volunteers at some stage.

Parents, teachers, neighbours. People that just love football and want to pass that on in their communities.

Stewart Regan, welcoming the nominees to Hampden, mentioned that there are now over 17,000 volunteers involved in Scottish football.

Giffnock Soccer Centre, Best Community Club
That's around one volunteer for every ten registered players. Of course we should alway strive for more. But those struck me as heartening figures in a country where we're too often ready to consign football to hell in a handcart and where, I think, we increasingly feel people are no longer prepared to roll up their sleeves and get involved.

If these awards prove anything it's that people are still willing to get involved and people are quietly and tirelessly doing great things to make Scottish football a healthier, happier place.

This year also marked ten years of the awards, the programme listing all previous winners - a roll call that stretches to over 100 individuals, clubs, schools and organisations.

From the biggest clubs - Hearts won this year's Best Professional Club in the Community award, the Big Hearts Community Trust has worked with 13,000 people in the last 12 months - to individual volunteers in communities across Scotland it struck me that every winner is helping someone do something that I took for granted growing up: the chance to play football.

(I liked pies too much to be any good but I enjoyed it nonetheless, still do when the lumbago eases and nobody is watching.)

They do it with no expectation of recognition which is one of the things that makes the annual awards ceremony so special.

Take Magnus Johnson, winner of the Best Volunteer in Youth Football Award, who coaches four age group teams in Stornoway, is voluntary groundsman at Groathill Park and manages the Western Isles Games Association Ladies team.

He's also got a full time job.

Or Falkirk's Mark Lenathen, Best Volunteer in Girls and Women’s Football Award, who started coaching - and I guess this will be familiar to many - when his daughter started playing.

Mark coaches the Falkirk Football Community Programme's under-15 side. This year they won the league and reached the league cup final. After the same side went the whole season without a win last year.

Kenny Dalglish and Mark Adams, SFA Grassroots Awards 2013
Mark Adams, Best Volunteer in Adult Football
Mark Adams, the Best Volunteer in Adult Football, summed the night up when he said: "We're all here because we love football."

For Mark that led him to set up the North Glasgow Football Development Group - which now offer three after-school groups and community coaching for 60 young adults.

The scale of what volunteers can achieve was recognised in the Best Community Football Club award. Giffnock Soccer Centre was created in 1995 - today over 160 unpaid coaches organise football for over 900 players.

It was also a privilege to spend the evening in the company of Pat Griffin, winner of the inaugural People's Award decided by public vote.

It's always nice to meet someone with stories to tell about Joe Tortolano but more importantly it was fantastic to see Pat's work with Milton Amateur FC recognised.

He was instrumental in founding the club 40 years ago and has been involved ever since:

"For me it isn’t about receiving awards but making sure young footballers across Milton get the opportunity to play football."

Which nicely summed up the recurring theme of the evening.

The runners-up in the People's Award were George Ferguson of Broughty United and Ian Stevenson of Lenzie Youth. Between them Pat, George and Ian have served grassroots football for over 130 years.

I'm also told that Pat's win came after a large public vote, a vote that compares favourably with the People's Award across the other Home Nations.

Which does suggest that, whatever we read and we write about Scottish football, an audience remains for good news stories and a great number of people appreciate the chance to say "thank you" to the people that give up their time to keep the game going.

10th Annual SFA Grassroots Awards

  • Best Volunteer in Youth Football - Magnus Johnson, Stornoway Athletic FC 
  • Best Volunteer in Adult Football - Mark Adams, North Glasgow Football Development Group
  • Best Volunteer in Disability Football - Jamie and Mirren McDonald, Lothian Special Olympics
  • Best Volunteer in Girls & Women’s Football - Mark Lenathen, Falkirk Football Community Programme  
  • Best Volunteer in Schools Football - Philip Stuart, Milnes High School, Moray
  • Best Professional Club in the Community - Heart of Midlothian FC
  • Best Community Football Club - Giffnock Soccer Centre
  • Best Coach of the Year - Billy McAdam, Linlithgow Rose Community Football Club
  • McDonald’s Community Champion - Jimmy Whelan
  • 2013 People’s Award - Pat Griffin
With thanks to McDonald's for inviting me to a great night at Hampden.