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Sunday 06 October 2013

FA to honour clubs' grassroots heroes

Representatives from Premier League clubs to receive medals at FA event at Buckingham Palace

  • The Duke of Cambridge, as president of The FA, will host the event and present medals

  • Seale has helped Chelsea’s disability team in various leagues and cup competitions

  • Everton's West, centre, helps youths reject the temptations of crime and violence

  • Marr, in red, has been involved with Liverpool since he was 13

  • Newcastle's Winskill, left, was an apprentice at the club but now helps coaches in the city

  • Spurs' Lakhani with his invitation to Buckingham Palace

  • West Brom's Fisher had been helping at the club since 1999

  • Chukwuma with West Ham co-owner David Gold

The selfless work done in their local community by people at clubs in the Barclays Premier League is being honoured by The Football Association as part the organisation’s 150th anniversary celebrations.

"It's important to honour the volunteers who give millions more    the opportunity to enjoy football at grassroots level"
The Duke of Cambridge

The FA has invited 150 volunteers or grassroots "heroes" to an event on Monday 7 October at Buckingham Palace. These people have been chosen for their outstanding contribution and service to football, including helping to develop the women's game, providing opportunities for disabled players, grassroots referees as well as club and league administrators. HRH The Duke of Cambridge, who is president of The FA, will host the event and will present them with a medal to commemorate their achievements.

"In our 150th year, it is hugely important for The FA to honour the efforts of the many thousands of volunteers who, week in, week out, help to provide the opportunity for millions more people to enjoy football at grassroots level," the Duke of Cambridge said. "Inviting 150 of these volunteers to Buckingham Palace provides a fitting way for The FA to pay tribute and give thanks."

Greg Dyke, the FA chairman, hailed the volunteers and grassroots heroes, calling them the "heartbeat of football". "Without them, the game simply wouldn't function at a grassroots level and it is only right that The FA honours their tireless and selfless work," Dyke said.

The representatives from the Premier League clubs to be honoured are:

Rob Seale (Chelsea)

Seale's hard work and dedication have helped to develop the opportunities for local people to play for Chelsea’s disability team in various leagues and cup competitions in the UK and abroad. His "can do" attitude means that Seale inspires his players on a daily basis, ensuring that self-belief is instilled in every individual.

Paul West (Everton)

West has worked through Everton in the Community to use the power of football and sport to help hundreds of youngsters to turn their back on a life blighted by crime and violence. In one instance, after he and his team were attacked in by youths from the Asian community in Oldham while attending a football tournament there, West called together the Premier League, Merseyside Police, Greater Manchester Police and Oldham FC to work together to deliver equality and diversity training to the young people involved.

Jake Marr (Liverpool)

Since first playing in Liverpool's Ability Counts disability team at the age of 13 Marr has also gained coaching certificates and combines his playing time with coaching young players and acting as a role model to people. Marr also helps Liverpool FC Foundation in coaching sports at local schools as well as undertaking a charity run to raise funds for a local team.

Mark Smith (Manchester City)

Smith is a volunteer with Manchester City's activities on a match day in their City Square as well as the club's soccer schools. After coming the club's Success Through Sport Programme Smith has dedicated a number of hours to City In The Community, too.

Neil Winskill (Newcastle United)

After being released by Newcastle as an apprentice, Winskill has dedicated his life to grassroots football. He gained a UEFA A Licence in 2004 and has worked with Newcastle United Foundation overseeing a programme that delivers 8,000 coaching hours to 25,000 children and young people a year in the city. He has also pioneered an initiative to support grassroots coaches in the region called "Coach the Coach".

Akash Lakhani (Tottenham Hotspur)

Lakhani has delivered over 200 hours of volunteering on Tottenham Hotspur Foundation Football Programmes, mainly focused towards disability football provision. His work has meant that he has been recruited by the Foundation to help with disability football and is the assistant coach for the Cerebral Palsy Centre of Excellence.

Helen Fisher (West Bromwich Albion)

Fisher was instrumental in setting up West Bromwich Albion Ladies, becoming secretary in 1998. After the team became part of Sporting Club Albion Fisher's brief grew to include girls' teams, basketball squads and disability teams. Until her retirement at the end of last season Fisher oversaw this as well as getting involved in tasks such as making refreshments and cleaning changing rooms; all this despite battling cancer for the past nine years.

George Chukwuma (West Ham United)

After a brief spell as a professional player Chukwuma became a volunteer coach at West Ham's Kickz project but his hard work and natural coaching ability led to him soon becoming the project co-ordinator of the PL Kicks programme as well as the Community Sports Development Officer. He is always looking at ways to help his coaches and the people he works with to improve and over the past year has helped over 140 young people obtain FA Level 1 coaching qualifications, other multi-sports coaching qualifications and the FA Junior Football Leaders' Award.

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