The Duke of Cambridge has hailed the “incredible efforts” of grassroots football volunteers up and down the country.
In a message played at today’s launch of the FA’s 150th birthday celebrations, HRH Prince William, President of the Football Association, paid a glowing tribute to the army of volunteers without whom the grassroots game would not exist.
“I would like it to highlight the incredible efforts of the 400,000 volunteers that deliver the game week in, week out, up and down the country,” he said.
“The mums and dads, coaches, referees and administrators who give their time to make pitches ready, organise the fixtures and wash all those kits.
“The Olympics and Paralympics highlighted the spirit of the British people to volunteer, but I know it is something that has always been part of our great game.
“I am delighted that the FA will be honouring this army of volunteers through a special 150 Grassroots Heroes initiative. They deserve our full praise and unstinting thanks.”
The 150 Grassroots Heroes initiative – details of which are yet to be announced – is just one way that the FA is attempting to put grassroots football at the heart of its 150th anniversary celebrations.
Another highlight will be a National Football Day to be named after the late Sir Bobby Robson. Taking place on 10 August, the day will place a focus on the grassroots game and is expected to include clubs from all levels of the game.
The Prince’s message was played at the beginning of the event held at the Grand Connaught Rooms, located on the site of where the FA was founded in 1863, at the Freemasons’ Tavern.
“I consider it a huge honour to lead The FA – it is an organisation which reaches every community, bringing the simplest enjoyment to people of all ages and all abilities,” he said.
“Over 150 years, football has become part of the very fabric of our society and I hope the year ahead will allow us to celebrate every aspect of this great game.
“As many of you will know, The FA’s work is far reaching. It is a diverse not-for-profit organisation, which invests over £100m into the game every year delivering facilities for grassroots football, coaching programmes for boys and girls, and development programmes for those with disabilities.
“It is a regulator of the game at all levels, ensuring that football is played in a safe, fun and welcoming environment for everyone – whatever their background.
“Our flagship facilities at St. George’s Park and Wembley Stadium are the inspirational homes of 24 England teams and world leading coach education facilities.
“My hope is that our 150th year really shines a light on all of this great work.”