Published: 17-11-2023 05:42

Parents in Malta have reported* that UEFA and Disney’s first pan-European grassroots initiative for girls, UEFA Playmakers inspired by Disney, has inspired their daughters who participated in the programme to want to play football (55%) and join a local team (73%).

UEFA and Disney today announced a four-year extension of UEFA Playmakers to 2027. This pan-European participation initiative, powered by Disney stories, has already introduced over 1000 of 5–8-year-old girls in Malta to football.

UEFA and Disney are proud to welcome Disney’s Academy-Award winning animated musical comedy Encanto, the latest film to join UEFA Playmakers, after Disney Pixar’s The Incredibles 2, Disney’s Frozen 2 and Disney’s Moana, all featuring a strong female lead.

“We’re so pleased with the impact UEFA Playmakers has made in MALTA, helping to offer a first experience of football to young girls. We’ve seen many girls join local teams after participating in the programme,                                            Director of Women’s Football Pierre Brincat.

Janica Farrugia Soldat, one of the parents, said that “UEFA Playmakers was definitely the best introduction to football for my daughter and honestly, I am not sure if she would have shown an interest if it wasn’t for the programme. The story telling and the interaction with the coaches was most enjoyable and kept the lessons more interesting.’

A magical experience for girls, parents and coaches alike 

UEFA Playmakers has made a tangible impact in Malta. Succeeding in the aim of getting more girls playing through movement, play and storytelling and providing unique opportunities to girls as a safe, fun and engaging entry pathway into the game.

Inspired by academic research, UEFA Playmakers sessions are held in 90 centres in Malta.  

Across Europe, UEFA Playmakers sessions are held in 48 European national associations in over 3,800 locations. More than 73,000 girls have taken part in the programme that has trained over 5,200 UEFA Playmakers coaches.

Paving the way for girls in football

The Playmakers story has only just begun, and UEFA will build on this momentum to ensure that girls are not only introduced to football but continue playing.  UEFA Playmakers’ key ambition is to ensure each Playmakers centre has a clear pathway into football for player and coaches alike. To achieve this, UEFA will support national associations with dedicated experts providing mentor support and follow-on programmes.

In addition, UEFA will provide greater access to UEFA Playmakers content, enabling girls, families and teachers to enjoy UEFA Playmakers activities independently of the sessions.

“We’re really excited to see UEFA Playmakers expand over the next four years and to continue our partnership with Disney” said Nadine Kessler, UEFA Managing Director of Women’s Football. “Combining physical activity with the magic of Disney has proved a winning combination to introduce girls to football, get parents involved and give every girl the opportunity to experience the joy of our beautiful game. I am excited to see professional football players emerge in the future who can trace back their love for football back to their very first Playmakers session”

Nicole Morse, Vice President Brand and Franchise Marketing, Disney EMEA, said: “UEFA Playmakers inspired by Disney has been such a brilliant collaboration that it was a no-brainer to continue the programme for another four years. It's been so satisfying seeing our strong female characters and stories, such as Moana and Frozen, being such a force for good, inspiring families and children to get more active and to kick start a love of football. The feedback from girls, parents and coaches has been so positive and we look forward to engaging new audiences with our storytelling, starting with our new Encanto story going live in 47 national associations across Europe.”

Countries taking part in the UEFA Playmakers programme

Seven countries were part of the initial pilot phase in February 2020: Austria, Belgium, Norway, Poland, Romania, Scotland and Serbia.

In less than four years, an additional 40 countries have also joined the programme: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Latvia,  Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Russia, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Wales.

*Leeds Beckett University research

In July 2023, Leeds Beckett University conducted a thorough research gathering process across 31 of UEFA’s National Associations taking part in the UEFA Playmakers programme. Data was captured from 1,392 parents and 965 coaches.