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Women's Football News
Female football stalwart Dawn Barnard rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous at the weekend when she was presented with a national Outstanding Contribution to Grassroots Football Award before Sunday's FA Community Shield match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium.
Chelmsford-based Dawn was one of seven nominees at a special ceremony and meal for the annual FA Community Awards, presented by McDonald's, and she claimed to be "surprised and delighted" with the accolade, presented to her by footballing legends at a high-profile ceremony in the Booby Moore Suite. She said: "It's really quite an honour and I'm privileged."
Dawn has played a huge part in the development of women's and girls football in Essex for the last 25 years, forming and playing for Chelmsford City Ladies and Girls FC. In addition, she was instrumental in helping to create and operate both the Essex County Girls' League and the Essex County Women's League, maintaining roles with both to the present day.
During that time she's experienced a lot, but football has been kind to her, recalling: "I do enjoy it - I've been doing it for 25 years now and I don't know where the time's gone! Once the season starts you're doing things on a weekly basis - confirming fixtures, booking pitches, washing kit - so it's an all-year-round job. But attending meetings and everything else is all part of it. You get to meet different people and share ideas and good practices and that's what I enjoy."
The FA Community Awards, presented by McDonald's, aim to recognise and reward people across the country who make a difference to grassroots football in their local community - the people who dedicate their time to developing tomorrow's young talent and help to ensure safety and best practice in tens of thousands of clubs up and down the Country. Nominations were received from 48 County FAs via TheFA.com.
At her own club, Chelmsford City, Dawn has been a key force in the growth of both the senior and junior sections, meaning that any female, regardless of age or ability, has the opportunity to play. She has also seen a number of her players progress to compete in national leagues, university and collegiate levels as well as international football.
Dawn has held numerous positions over the years, successfully helping hundreds of these players to make the transition from girls' to women's football. That can be time consuming and she added: "There isn't a day that goes by when I'm not doing something football-related. During the summer the players have their break but that's the busiest time for a secretary as you're getting all the paperwork done and getting all the players signed on."
Although she was reluctant to reveal her exact age, Dawn admits that the outlook on the female game has changed a great deal since she took her own first steps. She added: "There wasn't youth football when I first wanted to play so I didn't start until I was in my early 20s. We started as a five-a-side team and the club just grew and grew. Now we've got youth and adult sections and I'm still allowed to run around in the Reserves every now and again!"
McDonald's Director of Football, Sir Geoff Hurst, who was part of the judging panel and presenter at the ceremony, said: "Dawn is a real inspiration to any female, young or old, who wants to play football. The impact she has had on women's and girls' football in Essex is remarkable and she has been instrumental in helping to develop professionalism within the game as well as creating more opportunities for girls to enjoy football at grassroots level."
Off the field, Dawn would like to see more helpers get involved in football but she has no intention of resting on her laurels following this award: "You can always improve. We've got a good relationship with local clubs and quite often you learn a lot after a meeting because you're sharing things and you can tweak what you're doing.
"It's nice to be recognised in this way, but I'm equally aware that there are lots of people out there who have been doing it far longer than me. It would be nice if some new volunteers would come forward so some of the older ones can put their feet up!"
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