WELSH football legend Ian Rush has urged clubs in Pembrokeshire and across Wales to nominate those deserving of a Welsh Community Football Award.
Now in its seventh year, the annual scheme, presented by McDonald’s, aims to recognise and reward the people and clubs that are driving grassroots football in Wales.
Rush, who serves as McDonald’s head of Welsh Football, has helped the Football Association of Wales (FAW) and The Welsh Football Trust make sure that the grassroots of the game is not overlooked. Indeed, the McDonald’s and FAW club Accreditation Scheme has supported scores of clubs in helping young footballers progress whilst providing football to local communities across Wales.
Speaking to Telegraph Sport on Wednesday Rush, who scored 28 goals for his country in 73 appearances, said: “Often the importance of grassroots football can be lost on people.
“It’s great that people in Wales can now watch Swansea and Cardiff in the Premiership, and see the likes of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid, but we can’t lose touch with the real World.
“Volunteers in grassroots football are so vitally important because they keep the game going in the local communities.”
Rush, 52, urged clubs to propose those whose sterling work at their respective club has gone largely unrecognised.
“It’s important that volunteers are rewarded,” he said.
“You’ll find that the majority of them don’t want the limelight and are reluctant to be nominated – but when they win an award and are paraded around the Cardiff City Stadium pitch like the 2013 winners were at the Wales v Serbia game, they love it and so they should.
“And it only takes a small amount of effort to nominate someone.”
Rush added that grassroots football continues to provide a pathway for youngsters good enough to play at a higher level.
“Ultimately only 0.1% of young footballers will ‘make it’, so to speak.
“But if they are good enough, they will be picked up. There is a misconception that you can only make it if you are picked up straight away but that’s not true – you are never too old.”
The January football schedule in Pembrokeshire has been largely wiped out by inclement weather – and Rush added that investments in 3G pitches were crucial in order to aid player development in the county.
“3G pitches are vitally important,” he said.
“It doesn’t do players any good to go three or four weeks without playing because then people lose fitness, concentration, and ultimately interest.
“And also, you don’t want to make players, especially youngsters, try and battle through on unfit pitches because that isn’t enjoyable.
“With 3G pitches the weather isn’t so much of a factor and the ball is always moving – so getting the funding for them should be a priority.”
Vote for your McDonald’s Grassroots Hero
Voting is open at www.mcdonalds.co.uk/awards where you can take your chance to nominate regional winners for club of the year, coach of the year and many more, with the winners going onto the national finals at a star-studded dinner later in the year.
The full awards list includes:
• Club of the Year
• School of the Year
• Community Coach of the Year
• Performance Development Coach of the Year
• Volunteer of the Year (The People’s Award)
• Young Volunteer of the Year
• Lifetime Achievement
• Grassroots Impact Award
• Player of the Year (Boy)
• Player of the Year (Girl)
You can also see further details by following the awards on Twitter: @2014Grassroots/#grassrootsheroes, and on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXTeSzg3sYM.
The 2014 Welsh Community Football Awards, presented by McDonald's, has opened for nominations. McDonald's Head of Welsh Football Ian Rush is urging communities to nominate their grassroots heroes for one of the ten award categories. To nominate a football club or volunteer go to mcdonalds.co.uk/awards or search ‘Day in the Life of a Grassroots Club’ on Youtube.