UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has been named 2021 Best Executive by WFS Awards, in recognition of his exemplary leadership in combating the European Super League and delivering a hugely successful UEFA Euro 2020 tournament in the midst of a global pandemic.
The WFS Awards judges acknowledged Ceferin’s inspiring management during what has been a uniquely testing time both for UEFA as an organisation and the football world as a whole.
Ceferin wins the Best Executive award – presented by Nolan Partners – after steering UEFA through this year’s European Super League crisis, which he met with a swift, firm and coordinated response in collaboration with stakeholders from the wider football community.
All this occurred just two months before the start of the rearranged UEFA Euro 2020 tournament – the first of its kind to span 11 different cities and countries, and which faced the unique challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated travel restrictions. Under Ceferin’s stewardship, UEFA managed to overcome the many complex obstacles that could have put the tournament itself at risk, leading to its successful conclusion in July 2021.
Ceferin’s announcement headlines the entire WFS Awards winners’ announcement, with Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford MBE the first winner of The Marcus Rashford Award, presented by Facebook – a new category of award named in the player’s honour and which will in future editions be awarded to athletes who use their platform to promote positive change in society.
🏆 THE MARCUS RASHFORD AWARD
We're delighted to introduce – in partnership with @Facebook – the newly created #MarcusRashfordAward, in honour of the life changing campaigning of @MarcusRashford on child food poverty in the U.K.
— World Football Summit (@WFSummit) August 26, 2021
Elsewhere, social media content creation platform Slate will be taking home the Best Supplier award, presented by SportsTechX, in recognition of their outstanding work in helping clubs, leagues and federations to create high-quality and engaging social media content. The Slate platform can be customised to each sport property’s identity, which has allowed the likes of UEFA, the Bundesliga, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur to create content that delivers unique digital first sponsorships.
From the three outstanding finalists in the Football for Good award, presented by Common Goal, Paraguayan agency 23 Sports Marketing emerged victorious for their inspiring “Sponsorship against Oblivion” initiative, created in partnership with Puerto Diana Football Club – a team made up of members from the country’s indigenous community.
Through their efforts to use football for good, and raise awareness about the indigenous community’s living conditions, the club was even able to meet with the country’s President to discuss important issues affecting the community.
Iconic Japan National Stadium has been crowned the winner of the Best Venue award, presented by Mondo Stadia, having hosted this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, including the spectacular opening ceremony. The 68,000-seater stadium has been uniquely designed not only to be at the cutting edge of stadium technology and connectivity, but also to reflect Japanese culture, with cedar panelling and over 47,000 plants to help the venue blend in with its green environment.
From the exciting projects presented for the Best Club Commercial Initiative, presented by McCann, Arsenal FC’s fan rewards programme claims the award for its novel and innovative approach to fan engagement. Through their rewards scheme, fans are incentivised to interact with the club, with the opportunities to win prizes in a programme that creates added value for the club’s partners who can also use the scheme to reward the most engaged fans.
Women in Football will be presenting Liga MX/Ascenso MX with the highly contested Best Women’s Football Initiative as the Mexican women’s league celebrates its fourth anniversary in 2021. Over these four years, Liga MX Femenil has established itself as the leading women’s football league in Latin America, ranking in second place worldwide in average attendances and serving as an example of best practice for other emerging women’s leagues.
The Best Internationalisation Strategy, presented by Deloitte, will be jointly awarded to Sevilla FC and Bengaluru United for their partnership aimed at both growing the Sevilla FC brand and promoting the sport of football in Bengaluru, the city known as India’s own Silicon Valley.
The Best Digital Platform award, presented by Seven League, goes to Socios.com, who have made big waves in the industry over the last 12 months with over 50 major sporting organisations signing up to their fan engagement platform that uses cutting-edge blockchain technology to bring fans and teams closer than ever before.
Last but not least, the Outstanding Innovation Initiative, presented by N3XT SPORTS, goes to AiSCOUT, who have developed a ground-breaking AI-driven app, which enables professional football clubs, sports organisations and schools to scout academy level players virtually, using only a mobile phone to analyse their performance and track their progress.