Rotherfield United

Grassroots Football Award Now Part of Rotherfield United's Story

With the nomination window for the 2024 Grassroots Football Awards now open, last year’s Club of the Year reveal the accolade’s impact.

The Grassroots Football Awards, run annually by Oxfordshire FA, provide an incredible opportunity for the unsung heroes of the local game to be recognised for their tireless commitment to providing football to members of their respective communities.

Nominations for 2024’s awards are now open, with 15 accolades up for grabs at this year’s awards ceremony, which will be held in-person this year (details to follow).

Reflecting on winning Club of the Year in 2023’s Grassroots Football Awards, Rotherfield United Chair, Andy Tidswell, admits that the accolade had not only provided the club with recognition – it’s helped the club move forward in its development plan.

“It’s [the award] is now part of our story, and that’s been very powerful in engaging with members of the wider community, whether they be participants, volunteers or sponsors,” reveals Andy.

“The first thing we did was to get the award on our website and social media. We wanted to share the good news with the world. We feel it’s important that a parent can visit our website and see that we’re not only England Football Accredited, but also winner of a Club of the Year award. It hopefully helps them determine whether the club is right for their child, but beyond that, to anyone, it hopefully provides a great first impression.”

In 2022/23, Rotherfield United expanded from 150 to 450 members, as they looked to establish themselves as a community club, opening their doors to everyone regardless of age or ability. This included welcoming local NHS patients who were looking to improve their physical and mental health.

“Going into last season, we focused a lot on our development plan, which helped visualise some of the concepts and ideas we had,” says Andy.

“One of those concepts was to grow women and girls’ football at the club and become more of a community club, which was perfect as we celebrated our 50th anniversary. We’re very fortunate to have our own grounds and facilities, which enabled us to expand our membership.

“We found that there is a lot of help out there,” Andy continues.

“Through Oxfordshire FA, the Football Foundation and Sport England, clubs can really benefit.”

To support an increase in female participation, Rotherfield United applied to become hosts of Weetabix Wildcats and Squad Girls Football sessions, which are targeted to young players being introduced to the game.

“Typically, a 6, 7 or 8-year-old girls is less likely to join a team with 14 or 15 boys there. So, the question is ‘how do you take that next step?’ The creation of Wildcats and Squad provided us with a way in which we could take that opportunity and see if it worked for us, which it has,” says Andy. 

“We worked with Oxfordshire FA to become a Wildcats centre, which was approved. Hard work started from there, as we worked to get a nucleus of girls together. We communicated to lots of schools and groups, marketed with flyers and offered incentives to come and try the session for free. Just trying to grow our numbers. When we try to start new teams, we try to get our existing coaches to volunteer more time to work with them. It’s a challenge because of time commitments, so we brought in an external party to help facilitate the coaching of Wildcats – and that has really helped.”

Rotherfield United is an incredible example of a club that has grown to provide more opportunities to people of all ages and ability within the community.

If you know of a club that has provided similar opportunities or developed significantly over the past year – nominate them today for a Grassroots Football Award.