Grassroots Football Awards 2023

West Riding FA Grassroots Football Award Winners 2023

Meet our grassroots heroes of 2023!

West Riding FA is delighted to announce the local winners of the 2023 Grassroots Football Awards!

The Grassroots Football Awards is our opportunity to celebrate the people who make grassroots football great for everyone. They’re for the people who make a positive difference, and it's our way to recognise the fantastic people who put their heart and soul into football across West Riding.

Please see our 2023 winners below, alongside their nomination entry:

Grassroots Coach of the Year Female Pathway

Name: Shell Harris
Club: Ackworth Girls Football Club

The absolute pleasure of the girls is all she is happy about. She’s so selfless, dedicates all of her spare time to our girls (and works full time), never misses training, is always so happy, arranges friendly games if league games are cancelled so the girls are not disappointed. She is one in a million, she lights up a room when she walks in and each and every team member and parent love her.

She’s made a massive impact on our girls and club. We have gone up leagues since staring 3 years ago, unbeaten in this year so far. The bond the girls have is unbelievable and it’s all down to her. Can’t speak highly enough about her, she’s a total gem.

Just her personality to be around, her patience, her knowledge (she plays for our club too in open age), her way of expressing information to our girls. Never gets annoyed at the kids as they just follow her every move. Would just love for her to win an award to let her know how important she is to us as a coach and now friend. The respect she has gained from all of us and the girls is immeasurable.

Grassroots Coach of the Year Disability Pathway

Name: Anthony Hall
Club: Danby Rovers

Anthony's passion and commitment towards disability football is second to none. He gives up so much of his time to ensure the participants have the best, most accessible, and inclusive experience as they can - constantly going above and beyond. Anyone that knows Anthony or has spoken to him about what he does will know how inspiring he is & just how much he means to his team & players. On top of his grassroots responsibilities, becoming England Mencap Coach has meant he has given even more of his time & efforts towards improving disability football in the country.

Putting his players footballing development & league achievements aside, Anthony has created a real family environment within the team. Many of the players in the team have difficult circumstances not withstanding their disabilities. Anthony does a phenomenal job of ensuring each player feels comfortable & has a sense of belonging while under his care. He consistently goes above & beyond for his players, whether that's making time to speak with them & support them through anything they may be going through in football or not, & even going as far as cooking Christmas Dinner for those not fortunate enough to have family or capabilities to experience it themselves.

I have been in grassroots football for close to 15 years, & I'm yet to come across a volunteer so committed & passionate about giving back to the community than Anthony. What strikes me the most is his modesty, & how he goes under the radar. I believe Anthony should be given the recognition he deserves, just so the players, coaches, & teams he works with know how appreciative of him they are.

Anthony commits almost solely his spare time to running the club and it’s survival as well as being a source of support for the players both on and off the field and often through the toughest points in their lives. He is an inspirational figure to his players not just on the field but also off the pitch where he supports his players and provides care and understanding and support to many who do not have this in their lives and in this sense is much more than a football coach but also provides a positive caring and support service to his players, many of whom have been with him for more than 12 years and to Leeds as a city.

He makes a difference to many people’s lives and goes above and beyond on numerous occasions and has continued to do so unrecognised for numerous years . On many occasions he has helped to fund the renting of the training venue when there has been a shortfall in attendees to enable the training to continue for the rest.
Anthony has always made himself available to all of his players 24/7 and as testament to the trust and respect of his team, his players have often called him first whenever something unfortunate has occurred or if they are at a crossroads in their life and where they feel Anthony has never let them down.

Grassroots Coach of the Year Male Pathway

Name: Liam Fox
Club: Monk Fryston Football Club

Liam deserves a medal after coaching the U14s (our eldest sons team) since they were U6s. We have had to move holidays to accommodate fixtures, the endless messages from opposition and mostly parents. Not only does he do this he is also the chairman of our club which has doubled in size whilst he’s been chairing. He also supported our eldest son who’s just been diagnosed with ADHD by sitting the referee qualification alongside our son to encourage him. Liam has also done the first aid training course and this enabled him to save my life. In July 2022 I suffered a cardiac arrest and Liam performed lifesaving CPR until the paramedics arrived 20 minutes later. During all of this and my recovery he didn’t let the club down or his team down he gave more to keep his mind busy, he’s a real-life hero and kept everyone around him inspired!

The impact has been immense, he’s seen his team turn from little rabbits in headlights to a team to be proud of, a bunch of fine young men who pull together and dig deep every week. The club goes from strength to strength with local teams asking to come onboard and join forces, we’ve doubled in size as a club. Liam runs an annual comedy night to allow parents to come together away from the pitches to raise vital funds for new equipment.

Liam is the most selfless person I know. He works full time as a finance director. He never once complains about heading out to coach on nights when it’s freezing cold or the team doesn’t put 100% effort in. He does the little jobs too like nipping round to the club to put out the bins… he is the life and soul of our club and mostly his U14s team.

Liam has organised a free event where St John’s ambulance is coming to our club to teach everyone how to do CPR and use a defib, he wants everyone to know how to save a life, all this in amongst working full time, coaching twice a week, dads taxi pretty much every night and being both parents whilst I’ve recovered for the last 7 months. An actual real-life hero!

Grassroots Club of the Year

Club: Fairbank United

Fairbank United was created by Shahzad Bashir and was later joined by Akif Waseem. Shahzad was a teen himself when setting up Fairbank and his only goal was to provide a safe environment for children, to fulfil their passion of learning and playing football. Over the years Fairbank has seen many children come through the different youth teams and eventually in the senior team. As well as physical activities, Fairbank educates its youths and teaches discipline. These children are mainly from a BAME background and come from a deprived area of the currently with a poor upbringing. The volunteer coaches take their time out to facilitate these training sessions and use their own resources on matchdays. Fairbank also have holiday clubs and the same volunteers would sacrifice this time to provide an enjoyable time during school activities, putting together well-arranged activities.

Fairbank has provided facilities, with little to no financial assistance to children from poor families, from deprived areas. Volunteers have been central in its success. When opportunities are scarce for south Asian children, they very rarely have any match day experience. Fairbank provides them that. Last season the 3 youth teams reached their cup finals, the volunteers put together a fan base that replicated the singing and party like atmosphere for the kids whilst their played their games. This was extraordinary to see, the smiles, the laughter, the courage the passion being shown was amazing.

Shahzad and Akif have never given up, many clubs count success when their trainees are accepted into professional teams. For these south Asian children, that will never be the case. However, Fairbank count their success when they know children are having a great time.

It’s time to step up and recognise the achievements of this great club. For many children, this is their Man Utd, this is their Liverpool and Man City. It's Fairbank that has allowed them to Hope and Dream.

Grassroots League of the Year

League: Huddersfield Junior Football League

Making grassroots for everyone is exactly what the HJFL do! Amazing organisation.

One of the biggest leagues in England, they have made it easier for everyone to play football the right way.

The league is very much involved and happy to help no matter the situation.

Grassroots New Volunteer of the Year

Name: Sam Mellor
Club: Middleton Park Juniors

Sam is the coach of our U12s development team. He impressed me with his enthusiasm and sheer determination to improve his players.

Sam volunteered to coach a development team at U12s level because otherwise we would have had 14 kids without a match each week- age group of 28 players with only 14 allowed to participate in game days. Sam has really believed in these development players and worked hard to introduce them to different positions and formed a great team spirit.

Sam had an assistant coach who unfortunately suffered a stroke in August. This has meant he has run the team single-handed. Sam has run all the training sessions weekly by himself, been first to every home game to set up nets & corner flags etc, organised lifts for players struggling with transport & essentially asked for no additional help from the club at all. He also regularly acts as referee for the ‘main’ U12s team when respective fixture times allow.

Sam has put his heart & soul into this team, despite it being his first experience of coaching, he has self-served from lots of resources to help him structure his training and completed the Playmaker course. It would have been very easy to step back once he realised his support in the form of an assistant coach had gone but instead he was determined to give his boys the best season ever!

Young Volunteer of the Year

Name: Cameron Harrison - Maude
Club: Rastrick Junior FC

Cameron has refereed younger age groups for 2 years, helps coach our very youngest Players and is our Players’ Ambassador and has a place on our committee.

Cameron is an example to all our players. He is an excellent role model and volunteers his time to give back to the local community.

Cameron is mature beyond his years and is a shining light to other teenagers.

Grassroots Grounds Team of the Year

Name: Richard Hill
Club: Brighouse Juniors

I am nominating Richard Hill for recognition for the huge amount of work he does for our Club. Richard is a founder member of Brighouse Juniors. He and others set up the Club in 1989. Richard is in his 34th year as a volunteer at the Club. He’s 70 years old and dedicates countless hours every week throughout the year to maintain our pitches and club grounds.

Not only is Richard the founder of the Club, he’s one of the Trustees, an ex-manager, ex-Chairman, our groundsman, pitch marker, our fixtures organiser and generally our go-to person at the Club for most things.

Richard is Mr Brighouse Juniors and without him our Club would struggle. We have arguably one of the best sets of pitches in Grassroots football in our county FA.

I would be immensely proud that Richard receives a well overdue recognition award for his hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm he portrays every single week. Most mornings he can be found on our grounds in his tractor, marking pitches, repairing facilities, fertilising the grass, sowing seed etc. Every club needs a Richard and we’re so lucky to have one. And not only is he a great guy, he’s not has the easiest of seasons as a Spurs fan - so he needs a change of luck!

The Lioness Award

Club Name: Halifax Friendly Football Club

Halifax Friendly Football Club encourages women to take up the sport with a weekly kick-about session for all ages, abilities and nationalities. The session, organised by Halifax Friendly Football Club, was first launched in May 2021 with 11 women taking part. This now averages around 32 per week with three five/six-a-side games played at once, facilitated by experienced and qualified coaches Ryan West, Patrick Cooling, Michael Gavan and David Kinnald, who set up what is now known as HFFC in 2002. Over time the club has grown and now boasts two women’s football teams - the ladies launched in May 2022 and the Belles in September 2022. The teams have allowed female footballers to be gently introduced to the sport through the West Riding Women’s Beginner League with the ladies’ team now progressing into the West Riding County Women's Football League Fourth Division for the 2023/24 season. The ‘turn up and play’ sessions are perfect for people who are starting out and just wanting to give it a go or those who are looking for a way to get back into playing football.

The ‘women's turn up and play session’, held at Lightcliffe Academy, attracts women from across Calderdale, Kirklees and Bradford, with more than 86 people in the dedicated WhatsApp group. Attendees include a former Lioness, former Manchester City player and even a player from Finland who was visiting the UK. Many of our players have no footballing experience at all but are looking for an inclusive environment where they can enjoy having a kick about. But we also have those who have played when they were younger and want to pick it back up again, we’ve even got a couple who have previously played for topflight clubs. It doesn’t matter whether you play for another local grassroots club or haven’t played before, there's no commitment. You literally just turn up, have a laugh and play football. It really is that simple. Outside of turn up and play the two women’s teams have gone from strength to strength. The more established ladies team currently has a 17 player-squad that has just finished second in the West Riding Women’s 9-a-side Developer League, with more due to sign on as they make the leap up to the full 11-a-side league next season. The most recently introduced Belles team, which is currently in the West Riding Women’s 9-a-side Beginner League, has 23 players registered. They have had an outstanding season so far and it is expected the league title will come down to the wire with some hotly contested matches still to take place. There is also a clear progression path between the two teams, with a handful of the Belles set to join the ladies’ team next season. The club also has more women eagerly waiting to join and is looking at adding an additional team next season to meet demand.
Inclusivity. Everyone is welcomed into the club like family. The club has worked hard to create an inclusive environment which is demonstrated in its ability to attract people from all walks of life and other local football clubs to participate in its turn up and play sessions. The vast majority - if not all - of the women’s team players have joined the club through ‘turn up and play’ which is testament to the environment that has been developed - people want to stay, train and play. The most impressive element for me is the fact the club does all of this with no place to call home. There is no clubhouse, instead the club has embraced technology and uses WhatsApp groups to communicate with players. This has enabled HFFC to have a wider reach than most clubs because many will get to know each other through the WhatsApp group prior to joining allowing for an element of anonymity for those who are shy or lacking confidence. The club takes its role in the community seriously and gives back where it can. Each year they participate in The Sanctuary Shield - a charity football match during Refugee Week to raise money for the St Augustine’s Centre in Halifax. Most recently club members walked the three peaks to raise money for Overgate Hospice; volunteered with Calderdale Lighthouse to wrap Christmas presents for disadvantaged children; collected footballs for Calderdale Lighthouse to be donated to children at the end of Eid

Into the 2023/24 season and beyond, the club is continuing to grow particularly within the women’s game. We’ve seen a massive increase in sign ups since England’s success in the Women’s Euros. It’s really ignited a passion for women’s football up and down the country and we expect the Women’s World Cup will only enhance this further. There are other sessions in the pipeline including walking football; weigh and play and a dedicated session for refugees to allow them to gain confidence and make friends without any prejudice or pressure. Lauren Summerskill, who represented England at youth level, joined Turn Up and Play in 2022 and most recently signed for HFFC Belles. Lauren said: “Turn Up and Play was a great way to ease back into football after being out for a while. The club prides itself on approachability and friendliness and now I’ve joined the Belles, it means I’m back doing the sport I love, with a new extended family.”

Grassroots Match Official of the Year

Name: Karen Power

Karen is a fantastic grassroots official L, who has officiated running the lines as a lineswomen and also as a referee and there is nothing but positive feedback from every single team she has been involved with as an official, officiating from younger ages teams to open age men and women’s teams which is fantastic. Having recently broke her ankle playing for her own football team, Karen has had to take a back seat from officiating games which means the west riding have lost an amazing match official for a short period of time.

They have made football more enjoyable and she clearly explains to players on the calls she makes throughout matches which helps players to understand her reasons and only increases the level of respect between football players and officials at grassroots level.

Karen does a lot for football and women’s football from being the person behind a team’s social media account, sourcing sponsorships, interacting with local football players across social media platforms, playing football as well as stepping up to officiate games

Karen deserves this award as the contribution she has made to grassroots football thus far is incredible and once her broken ankle is 100% healed she will continue to increase the enjoyment and participation in grassroots football

Positive Football Environment

Name: Chris Dixon
Club: Killinghall Nomads Junior Football Club - Sportability Team (not in a league)

Chris has dedicated the last 20 years, to making football, totally inclusive, to children with physical, communication, sensory and learning disabilities. In all honesty, his commitment deserves a lifetime recognition award. He radiates positivity, he is warm, caring, enthusiastic, patient, has a great sense of humour, and is able to adapt every Sportability session, so that every child can participate, whether they are using a walker, have attachment issues, or lack confidence. He always finds a way, as he's an incredible communicator, and places real importance on evaluating his own performance, to meet the needs of his players. He sees the potential in every child ,by looking at what they can do, instead of what their disability prevents them from doing. Sessions are fun, well planned out, and participation of all players is high, due to Chris's incredible encouragement throughout. My 9-year-old son uses a walker, and has a helper in the session, which means he gets greater opportunities on the ball. My oldest son is also a helper, who struggles with anxiety, and the endless positivity from Chris, has really improved his self-belief. It takes a special person to work with a special team, and Chris is that man. At 68 years of age and with 36 years of coaching experience I can't see him ever stopping.

Before Chris set up the Sportability team in Harrogate, there were no opportunities, for young people, with additional needs, to play in a football team. 20 years later, hundreds of young people, have grown in confidence, through playing football with Chris, and being able to socialise, and make lifelong friendships. Playing matches and tournaments, was so important to the team, and Chris responded to their call, and reached out to others disabled teams in the Yorkshire area. He has developed strong partnerships, with Boroughbridge JFC, and Horsforth JFC, and Sportability regularly play matches and tournaments now, winning medals and trophies. Chris's philosophy of 'Pay it Forward', is so important in connecting people in building communities. The lifelong impact, of playing in the Sportability team, is clear, when past players, with Down Syndrome, Asperger's, and Autism return to the team as coaches. This is so inspirational for the young players, to see how they can progress too. The impact that Chris has made in Harrogate is beyond measure, he is well known for his contribution, and continues to be the heartbeat of the community. The biggest compliment I can give him, is by quoting my son, when he continually asks me "how many days until I go to football again Mummy"

Chris set up Killinghall Nomads Junior Football club in 1987, with a 'Football for All' philosophy, with an emphasis on fun, and an acknowledgement, that young people gain many additional skills and benefits from being involved in sport, other than just winning. He was responsible for setting up most teams from the U6's to U16's. At one stage, he was the main coach for 4 age groups, showing his high level of commitment, passion, and dedication to grassroots football. He is still very active, in recruiting and training, potential coaches, across the age groups, alongside his main role as head coach for Sportability. He continues to reach out to the wider football community, in an attempt, to make Killinghall Nomads even better. A new parent rep group has just been established, to voice issues, and share ideas across the age groups. A new cafe run by parent volunteers, and a new boot exchange have recently been established. Chris works tirelessly to create more opportunities for the Sportability team. He works closely with Leeds United Foundation, and regularly has them involved in training sessions, linking up with their disability Officer to share ideas and practices. As a coach he takes every opportunity to value each players contribution, from giving out chocolate coins at Christmas, to represent their record transfer signings, and weekly 'Trainer of the Week' medals, which really delights and motivates the team.

Chris is truly a remarkable man, who has selflessly dedicated, the last 40 years of his life, to providing grassroots football opportunities to young people in Harrogate. I genuinely believe he deserves an OBE/MBE for his contribution to Sport in the Community. He began his career as a primary school teacher and has spent most of his life working in the care sector, continually giving to others. He regularly goes as a carer to watch Bradford City FC with an elderly man, with significant health issues, who otherwise wouldn't be able to go. Anyone, who happens to cross paths with Chris, is blown away with his unwavering commitment and passion for football. As a mum of a 9 year old child, who is unable to walk, he has transformed my sons life, by making football accessible to him, recognising and rewarding his efforts, and simply giving him chance to play as part of a team. His impact on the community goes way beyond football, he really leaves a legacy, for us all, in embracing individual differences as a strength, and that football offers so much more than' just winning'. To get a real sense of the great man, check out the video, he developed, for parents thinking about signing their children up for Sportability. Simply type, 'Sportability @ Killinghall Nomads JFC' into a Goggle search. Typically, Chris shies away from any praise or recognition, which is often symbolic of truly inspirational individuals, but proper recognition is well overdue.