Essex grassroots football was well represented when the winners of the 2019 Active Essex Sports Awards were announced during a special ceremony at Chelmsford City Racecourse on Wednesday 5th December.
There were commendations in the ‘Changing Lives through Sport and Physical Activity’ and ‘Young Volunteer of the Year’ categories of the event which celebrated the county’s sporting achievements from amateur to professional level. This included individuals and community partners who have encouraged participation in sport and physical activity.
The awards are part of Active Essex’s ongoing commitment to change one million lives by getting more people around Essex active. Joining the celebrations were some of Essex’s household sporting names, including double Olympic gymnastics champion Max Whitlock MBE and team members from Essex County Cricket Club, following an outstanding season.
Achievement Through Football (Southend) and Epping Forest Walking Football (Epping Forest) received special praise in the Changing Lives through Sport and Physical Activity category. They were described as groups who can demonstrate they have made a positive impact on people’s lives through a sport or physical activity project.
Meanwhile, in the Young Volunteer of the Year category, Ciaran Whatley (Rochford) and Leyla Priest (Chelmsford) were singled out as individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to local sport within a club or community setting. They achieved recognition for the commitment and support they have shown in the past year.
#LeylasCampaign on Twitter champions equality in sport with the motto: “It’s not girls’ or boys’ football... it’s just football.” In conjunction with Hatfield Peverel FC, Leyla ran a ‘Genders Unite Tournament’ in July as a focal point of her project.
Meanwhile Ciaran, who volunteers for Hawkwell Athletic FC and the South-East Essex Primary Mini-Soccer League, reacted: “These roles require a lot of time and commitment, and balancing them with my university work can be challenging at times, especially when I have a deadline looming! The feeling of recognition is more important than the individual award.”
“Admittedly I’m now quite old by ‘Young Volunteer’ standards at 20, and it’s good to see people younger than myself just as, if not more, involved in volunteering. On that note, congratulations to Liam Winters for winning and all the other nominees alongside myself and Leyla for their contributions to sport, especially football, in Essex.”
Azeem Akhtar, Chair of Active Essex, said: “At this year’s awards we saw some fantastic examples of how sport has been used to tackle gang crime, mental health, loneliness and other key societal issues - this speaks volumes and shows how important it is that we work closely together as a county to keep our communities active!”
To find out more about volunteering in grassroots Essex football, browse the 'Volunteers' menu above, follow @EssexCountyFA on Twitter and search for ‘EssexFootball’ on Facebook.