A mum of three from Halewood has been awarded the Nationwide Mutual Respect Award for nurturing young local grassroots football, and an initiative to help stamp out referee abuse.

Stacey Savage was training to be a midwife in before she had her three children, one of whom has disabilities. After finding it difficult to find a football club for their son, the family took matters into their own hands by forming a team of their own team, Inny Boys F.C.

Now caring for them full-time, she collaborated with other parents to form support groups for those in similar situations. She has also played a crucial part in launching the Merseyside Youth Football League (MYFL).

The team grew in popularity quickly, Savage told the FA: “We started with a team, then ran a club, and then the wider league needed volunteers. Over the years more volunteers have left, which has led to me taking on more roles so the kids can play.

We just became more and more involved in football, and now help with the adult’s team as well.”

Savage has also set about trying to improve the worrying trend of referee abuse.

As a volunteer herself, Savage said: “Up and down the country, issues are creeping in more and more. I’m a qualified referee myself, as is my son, and I got the whole team to go on a referee training course.”

Some of our referees were getting upset and something had to be done, so we called an emergency meeting with all our clubs and suspended all fixtures for the weekend.”

It just blew up from there, it got everybody talking about it and the other leagues began to take notice.”

The FA has nominated Savage as the winner of the monthly Mutual Respect Award for her efforts.

The Mutual Respect Award is a partnership between the FA Respect Programme and Nationwide Building Society, aiming to thank those who have gone above and beyond to build mutual respect within grassroots football. The winner of the monthly award receives a trophy and two tickets to an upcoming England football team game.

Upon receiving the award Savage said: “I found out I was nominated from one of the referee’s dads just before Christmas. I was taken aback as there’s so many people involved; I questioned why I should get an award because I enjoy doing it. For me, it’s a collective, not just me, even though I have to be the one to make tough decisions sometimes. I’m really proud to accept this award.”

She commended those up and down the country who help youth football to continue ticking: “Just because I volunteer to run a league doesn’t make me better than the coaches and the volunteers who give up their own time for children to play football.”

The Halewood-based mum believes football is essential in the development of confidence and understanding respect: “It’s more than football, it teaches life lessons. Winning is great, but it’s important to lose with dignity.

Grassroots football allows the whole community to make friends on and off the pitch and helps us adults to be positive role models. You learn to work as a team, follow instructions, behave responsibly and conduct yourself in the right manner.”

An ambassador for youth grassroots football Savage has no intention of stopping her efforts to improve the state of the game. She intends to encourage more women to enter the male-dominated sport and is working with St. Helen’s Town to tackle mental health issues within football through social engagement.

You can learn more about Nationwide’s mutual respect pledge here ->https://www.nationwide.co.uk/about-us/mutual-respect/mutual-respect-award/