The winners of the 2016 FA Community Awards presented by McDonald’s have been announced, ahead of Sunday’s Community Shield.
Grassroots champions from across seven categories will be honoured at Wembley Stadium during a special ceremony ahead of the match between Emirates FA Cup winners Manchester United and Premier League champions Leicester City.
With a 400,000 strong volunteer workforce in grassroots football, the Awards serve as a platform to highlight some of the finest examples of endeavour and selfless dedication in the sport.
As ever, the selection panel was inundated with hundreds of nominations and unearthed some amazing stories.
Members of the public also got a chance to have their say by voting for shortlisted finalists in the People’s Choice Award, the winner of which will be unveiled on the day.
Among those handing out awards at Wembley will be McDonald's director of football Sir Geoff Hurst, the 1966 World Cup winner, who said: "The task of selecting the winners gets harder each year, it is fantastic to see such wonderful examples of dedication to the grassroots game.
"So I salute all the leagues, clubs and individuals who make a massive contribution to football and commend the winners who have demonstrated a willingness to go that extra mile to make a real difference."
Kelly Simmons, the FA’s director of participation and development, added: "Volunteers and clubs like these are what keep the grassroots game alive.
"Their efforts give children and adults of all abilities the opportunity to enjoy and participate in a safe environment, and without them the game we know and love couldn’t exist."
The winners in the six named categories are:
FA Charter Standard Club: Alpha United Juniors, Bradford
Alpha United was recognised for the positive affect that it has had within the local community, in presenting opportunities for young people in an area of urban deprivation and high crime. The club is based in the heart of a multicultural community and has served as a perfect platform to bridge the cultural divide through the unifying force of football.
FA Charter Standard Development Club: Foots Cray Lions, Sidcup, Kent
Foots Cray Lions has grown to a club featuring 30 teams (including five girls' teams) and the club’s ethos is centred on the participation, enjoyment and development of children and young people in football and it has gone from strength to strength. The 2015-16 season saw Foots Cray team up with an FA Mentor to help promote the Club ethos among its teams.
Charter Standard Community Club: Gedling Southbank FC, Nottinghamshire
Gedling Southbank FC runs over 30 teams, featuring 400 players supported by 100 volunteers. It provides junior boys and girls sections, boys and girls youth sections, a senior men's section, a veteran’s team and within the next two years will create its first ladies team as their U16 girls progress. The club is also looking to re-establish a disability team in the coming year and has been a major charity fundraiser in the local community.
The FA Charter Standard League: Surrey Football for All
The Surrey Football for All League provides both friendly and competitive inclusive football to disabled children or adults. It has grown year-by-year since its inception in 2008, when it had five teams, to currently being home to 45 registered teams, providing football on its match days to up to 400 disabled participants. The league is also pro-active in supporting its volunteer workforce, providing bursaries for coach education, workshops and welfare courses to increase knowledge of supporting disabled children and vulnerable adults.
Young Volunteer of the Year: Peter Harding, Surrey
Peter, through his work with Wandgas FC, is passionate about encouraging young people with disabilities to play football. He volunteers his time every Saturday morning and is part of the Surrey FA Football Futures Leadership & Volunteering Programme. He is also chairperson of the Youth Forum where he leads meetings and plans events with other like-minded young leaders from around Surrey. He has recently created his own charity called ‘Why Can’t We?’ which aims to increase awareness of Disability Sport.
Volunteer of the Year: Lindsay Carrington, Chester
In the four years Lindsay has been in the role of Club Secretary at Upton JFC, player numbers from U6 to U18 have topped the 400 mark, representing a 50 per cent increase and making the club the biggest Junior Football Club in Chester. Lindsay is involved in player registration, club finance, coaching and heads up fundraising activities. She has forged excellent links with the local Authority, Parish Council, and Chester University among others – a great embodiment of what a Community Club represents.