Wiltshire Football Association [FA] has landed the Football Development Award at the inaugural County FA Recognition Awards for its pitch aeration initiative, launched in Wiltshire as part of the FA Pitch Improvement Programme, which aims to help organisations improve the quality of their natural turf (grass) football pitches.
The Awards were introduced this year to recognise and endorse the best projects, products and services launched by County FAs over the past season while sharing best practice and learnings from around the country.
From the 50 County FAs operating across England, 39 of them entered over 150 submissions, highlighting continuous improvements and showcasing how they are innovating to improve football and increase participation across all levels of the game.
The eight categories recognised on the night were:
- Brand Engagement
- Digital Engagement
- Diversity & Inclusion
- Football Development
- Insight & Data
- Women & Girls
- Special Recognition.
Wiltshire FA was handed the Football Development Award for their pitch aeration submission, which stood out from the 41 other nominated projects. The winning initiative, which saw a £40,000 investment, enabled Wiltshire FA to purchase verti-drain equipment and a tractor which is contracted out to clubs, offering them quality pitch improvement at an affordable price.
Mark Young, Football Development Manager said, “We always strive to find new ways to help our grassroots clubs and I am delighted this unique initiative has been recognised. We understand the impact compacted pitches can have for our clubs when they have to cancel fixtures and we know that increased aeration and decompaction is the single most effective way to improve pitches.”
Pitch aeration is a solution for the common pitch problem of heavily compacted surfaces. Aeration is the process of putting holes in the pitch to allow air to get into the subsoil and allow effective drainage.
Mark continues, “We must thank the Institute of Groundsman (IOG), Football Foundation, Gordon Gill Turf Maintenance and all of the clubs that are using the service, who are committed to improving their natural turf pitches and in turn supporting our aim of providing enjoyable football for all.”
Oliver Selfe, CEO at Wiltshire FA said "It was an honour to receive this recognition and I’m proud of the hard work our entire team has contributed towards improving the level of football and increasing participation across Wiltshire. Hopefully we can continue to build on this for many years to come."
FA Chief Executive Martin Glenn added: "It gives us great pleasure to recognise and reward our County FAs. The work they do in their local communities to inspire a lifelong journey in football are absolutely vital in ensuring we continue to develop, promote and protect the game.
"It’s testament to their work that we now have the highest number of boys playing affiliated football recorded to date, and we are well on track to deliver on our ambition to double participation in the female game."
Find out more about the Pitch Improvement Programme and Aeration Service
Photo caption: County FA winners with FA CEO Martin Glenn.