We had a record number of nominations with 4,761 people put forward as their Grassroots Heroes of 2020. It is people who make grassroots football happen week-in, week-out. From supporters, referees, coaches or volunteers, our 2020 winners are those whose actions and behaviour make The FA’s PRIDE values part of the game for their clubs, leagues and communities.
Grassroots Volunteer of the Year
Tony Pratt, Rayners Lane FC, Middlesex FA
At Tithe Farm, home to Rayners Lane FC, it could be argued that Tony Pratt IS Rayners Lane FC. The club is in his blood. His involvement with it stretches back over half a century to 1968, and he’s served them in an impressive variety of voluntary roles since then, including club secretary in the early 1970s.
Across five incredible decades he has worked tirelessly to help run the club to an exceptional level. As if the busy role of Club Secretary wasn’t enough, he’s also been responsible for running the tea hut, collecting spectators’ entrance fees, sweeping the dressing rooms and ensuring the match officials are looked after on Saturdays, Sundays and in midweek.
Not only that, but his hard work tending the pitch was the stuff of legends, before the grass was replaced with a 3G surface in 2018.
Rising Star of the Year
Elsa Jones, Hanwell Town FC, Middlesex FA
To say that Elsa Jones has taken Hanwell Town FC by storm is an understatement.
She’s the U18s matchday physio but also runs the gate at every home game, a gate that has got steadily busier thanks to her impressively hard work. Thanks to a half price season ticket offer, which was her idea, attendances have shot up by an incredible 22% this season. She is also responsible for organising the charities present at each game, and has helped them to raise a fantastic £2,500 during 2019-20.
When the season ended abruptly due to the pandemic, Elsa even took the time to pen personalised messages to elderly fans so that they wouldn’t feel lonely during lockdown, a lovely touch that is just so typical of her.
Grounds Team of the Year
Paul Wade, Orpington FC, Kent FA
Paul Wade is a man who’s passionate about pitches. In over 15 impressive years of dedicated service to his beloved Orpington FC, he’s hardly taken a holiday during the months of the football season. Paul has turned his hand to a variety of roles at the club including the club secretary and the safeguarding officer, but it’s as the club groundsman that he has really made his name.
Single-handedly maintaining each of the 16 pitches at Goddington Park, Paul can be found giving his all 3 days a week, cutting the grass, spiking the pitches, painting the lines and cleaning the changing rooms to ensure all facilities are kept sparkling clean and game-ready.
Grassroots Project of the Year
Diversity Football, Oxfordshire FA
Oxford’s Diversity Football League is a thrilling multi-national game-changer. Under the unifying flag of football, an exciting mix of representatives from BAME communities across Oxford come together to enjoy themselves and put their skills to the test on the pitch each week.
Teams including Sudan FC and Kurdish FC compete in an organised league, where players from Oxford’s Kurdish, Eritrean, Nigerian, Romanian, Syrian and Pakistani communities take part. It’s an exciting festival of football with a big draw locally, making a positive impact upon over 14 Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups over the last 12 months.
Last year they successfully raised awareness of NHS Health Checks amongst BAME groups, an initiative that reached over 300 men from 22 different nationalities.
Grassroots Match Official of the Year
Ella Broad, Wiltshire FA
Ella Broad wants to be the best referee she can, and never stops in pursuit of her goal. She’s got an impressive list of achievements that just keep on growing, and she’s not even taken her A levels yet! Ella is well-loved throughout the Wiltshire FA and further afield thanks to her consistently calm approach and ability to handle awkward situations with a smile.
Ella is not only progressing her own career, but as one of the 13 members of The FA’s prestigious National Young Referee Development Team is a key figure in supporting other young referees. Personally, she has excelled and had two FA Cup appointments as an assistant referee and was awarded by The FA for her incredible work with a Womens reserve Cup Final appointment in Nottingham.
Grassroots Coach of the Year (Adult team)
Farouk Menia, AFC Phoenix/Dulwich Hamlet FC Women’s Team, London FA
Farouk Menia was an exceptional man. A humble immigrant from Tunisia, he came to the UK with few possessions. His selfless ambition was to take the opportunities that he hoped his new life would present him and work hard to make enough money to support his family back home. But there was something else about this remarkable man: he lived and breathed football.
Soon after arriving in the UK, Farouk became the coach of AFC Phoenix, a women’s team that would eventually merge with Dulwich Hamlet during his 7 year tenure. Football was Farouk’s lifeline. Despite battling cancer over recent years, he continued to coach and encourage, often in the rain and freezing cold. Sadly, just prior to lockdown and in the middle of the season, Farouk Menia passed away.
He will be forever remembered for all he gave to the club and its players, many of whom, after long breaks or injury, fell back in love with football again thanks to him.
Grassroots Coach of the Year (Youth Team)
Tony Mitchell, Winsford Over 3 JFC/Disability, Cheshire FA
Tony Mitchell is a man who brings joy to children through his hard work and love of football. He’s a man who believes everyone should have a chance. Thanks to him, youngsters who are unable to compete in local teams have been given the opportunity to grow and shine in the Junior Disability Team that he created from nothing. Without Tony, there would be no team and those kids would miss out on so much.
He’s there, week in and week out, pushing these youngsters to succeed, children with conditions ranging from cerebral palsy, autism and Down's syndrome. He even serves as Club Chairman and the team that he created now boasts over 60 members all with new kits, raincoats and a desire to make the most of all the joy that football brings.
Grassroots League of the Year
Herts Senior County League, Hertfordshire FA
The Herts Senior County League is a thriving and dynamic football league. It’s progressive, inclusive and forward-thinking. It puts its clubs and their members first, looking for new ways to excite and inspire them.
A recent initiative saw the league dealing with the decline of male adult participation in the game, while their work on inclusivity has seen the formation of an inspirational Inclusive Division for both disabled men and women. Disabled tournaments within the division have been a massive success, attracting as many as 150 participants at any one time.
Clubs are now queuing up to join, with an impressive 8 new clubs added in the last season alone, and a potential further 7 waiting in the wings.
Grassroots Club of the Year
Sandbach United FC, Cheshire FA
Sandbach United FC are the ultimate extended footballing family. They are a huge and inspirational club. The work they do for the local community and the opportunities.
Providing football for all ages in Sandbach and nearby, they currently boast 48 teams catering for an incredible 700 players. This lifelong football journey begins with their youngest stars at reception age and Year 1, through to the adult and veteran teams. Playing, coaching and volunteering opportunities make this an incredible social adventure where the friendships are for life.
Everybody is encouraged. Volunteer coaches are funded by the club to do their level two badges, ensuring they improve and develop emotionally, physically, mentally and technically to really understand their players. This has a positive effect on everyone around them.
We Only Do Positive Respect – Parents Award
Harefield United U16, Middlesex FA
There are those rare and tragic occasions in football that can shake players to the core. Events that could, potentially, put them off the game for life.
In December 2018, one such event occurred during a regular home fixture for Harefield United U15s, and the shockingly sad scenes their players and families witnessed unfolding before them were unprecedented.
When events like this transcend football it can, at first, be difficult to see a way forward. However, the parents of the Harefield players rallied around their sons in a powerfully heartfelt show of love and support. They’ve helped them through the tough and difficult 18 months since, continually turning out to support the team both home and away and through thick and thin.
The Bobby Moore Award
Oliver Miller, Cerebral Palsy United, Manchester FA
Oliver Miller is an incredible boy, who has made a fantastic impact on the world of football. At 13 years old, he’s a key performer in his U14 team. Olly is a cracking player, with lots of potential. But that’s only part of his story.
Olly inspires everyone he comes into contact with. His positive influence is felt right across the club and the wider community. He’s the one who arrives early every week to help set up and meet and greet his club mates. He’s the one who stays late to clean up, who serves in the club cafe and helps coaches deliver sessions to the younger players.
Olly’s favourite thing to say is “how can I help?” and it is his emotional intelligence, his humour and his caring nature that makes this incredible young man truly stand out, and a worthy winner of this year’s Bobby Moore Award.