MFA launches programme aimed at improving image of the game, increasing participation

The Malta Football Association, in collaboration with the Youth Football Association and with the support of McDonalds (Malta) Limited launched a new educational football programme for boys and girls. The programme which will run over the next three years, will be named The McDonalds FootballPlus For Kids.

Addressing a press conference on Friday, MFA Head of Marketing Norman Saliba said that a few months ago, the association was one of six to be approached by UEFA for a pilot project for marketing support. The main objective of this pilot project was to improve the image of the football across Europe; grow participation; grow fan engagement; grow and optimise revenues.

UEFA carried out an audit on these six associations mid-way through last year and through a company commissioned by the European body, carried out a survey on a sample of 1,000 people aged 18 to 60 to get an overview of attitude towards football, get a clear picture of how football ranked when compared to other sports, understand the reasons for the current status of the game and identify areas to be addressed.

Among the sports followed by the Maltese, football is the top sport with 55% ahead of tennis (15%), motorsport (14%), swimming/waterpolo (12%) and athletics (10%).

With regards to participation, 15% of adults said they played football, 4% athletics, 4% swimming, 3% tennis and 2% cycling. On the other hand, 72% said that they did not take part in any sport. Participation by children was higher with 39% saying they played football, 13% swimming/waterpolo, 11% athletics and 10% gymnastics. 35% of the children did not participate in sport.

However with regards to the image of the sport, football ranked only fourteenth, second from bottom, only ahead of boxing.

Norman Saliba explained that as part of the MFA’s Vision 2020 for Grassroots, the association seeks to invest further in this sector with the focus being on growth and retention in terms of the number of players with the rate of participation increasing from 2.2% to 4%. In particular, the MFA aims at increasing the number of girls aged 5 to 11 playing football to 5% of all girls of that age, increasing the number of women footballers in general, the number of boys aged 5 to 13 and also adults who play recreational football. The association also seeks to improve the image of the game.

The MFA is proposing programmes for growth and for improving the image of the game through educational football programmes for children and their parents, programmes for young children to encourage them to play football and the introduction of a green card to promote fair play and a positive attitude.

Director of Coach Education Stephen Grima said the MFA Technical Centre wanted both growth and retention. He said it was important for nurseries to offer a quality programme with qualified coaches in order to give children a positive experience.

Grima said that the Technical Centre will soon be organising a course for parents which would help them support better their children. He said the centre will be supporting schools with material content and programmes. The enthusiasm shown by girls is attracting more girls to the game and revealed that a coaching course will be organised for Under-16 girls who could eventually pass on their knowledge to others in view of the great enthusiasm they show.

MFA Head of Marketing Norman Saliba said the association sought commercial partners to support its grassroots strategy and McDonalds teamed up with the association to support its efforts.

The McDonalds FootballPlus For Kids is one of MFA’s Grassroots Programmes, which form part of MFA’s Strategy for Growth and Retention in local football participation.

Youth FA General Secretary Joe Micallef thanked McDonalds for supporting the Under-11 events which started off two years ago. The McDonalds FootballPlus For Kids programme will run between February and May of years 2016, 2017 and 2018, comprising of 4 or 5 Regional Football Festivals for children aged Under 11 years, wherein 8 to 10 football nurseries participate in each festival.

The festivals will not only present the children with an opportunity to enjoy playing football, but will also include numerous educational activities, such as educational and cultural tours to specific sites at the hosting locality, football health and safety tips, etc. Moreover, each football festival will deal with a social theme.

The first of the 2016 Series of festivals is scheduled for Sunday 21st February at the Mgarr Football Ground, with SAY NO TO BULLYING being the social theme being presented.

The other festivals will be held as follows:
Sunday 26th March 2016 at the Żebbuġ Football Ground
Sunday 10th April 2016 at Dingli Football Ground
Sunday 15th May 2016 at M’Xlokk Football Ground
Sunday 22nd May at the Victor Tedesco Stadium, Hamrun

McDonalds marketing manager Cynthia Caruana said that this year’s programme will also incorporate McDonalds’ own Player Escort Campaign for the EURO 2016 Finals, which will take place in France later this year.

Two player escorts will be chosen and sent to the Euro 2016, one for one of the semi-finals in Lyon and another for the final in Paris. Applications will be accepted from boys and girls aged 6 to 10.

The registration forms will be handed over to children during each of the Football Festivals but a soft copy will also be available and will be sent via email to each Nursery and may be electronically distributed to all kids enrolled in each football nursery. Other children not registered in a Nursery will have the opportunity to apply from within any of the McDonalds restaurants in Malta and Gozo or online from McDonalds’ website.

Registration forms are to be handed in at any of the Football Festivals or at the Youth FA Offices, via the football nursery and even by email to McDonalds by the 18th April.

Seventy-seven children would be short-listed, from which the two winners would be chosen at random. The short-listed children will be given the opportunity to act as Player Escorts at prestigious football matches held locally, and which would include a match or matches from the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

The final football activity, during which the winners would be announced will be held on Sunday 1st May and boys and girls who would have been short-listed to participate in the final football activity will be personally informed.