Our guest speaker for March was Liz Verrall, CEO of Berks & Bucks FA, who made a return visit following her attendance at our meeting a year ago. She said she wanted to review some of the promises made at that time, report how things had progressed and consider the present day situation. She remained seated throughout the evening saying she wanted it to be completely informal, but also interactive. She wanted to hear the views of members.
First, she said that the Berks & Bucks FA was in year one of its planned strategy. The challenge was to go forward, to change expectations by not keeping up with old fashioned views but using new football technology.
‘We asked ourselves, what is our purpose?’ she said, ‘and decided that it was simply; to support grass roots football in the Allied Counties“.
Rather than thinking what is the best/easiest for the FA, we (B&B FA) should be looking at what is best for football. We want to be efficient, and spend our money in the best way possible. We need to think what football is going to be like in ten or fifteen year’s time and to be ready for it.
Liz then opened the meeting up to members. ‘Have your perceptions of the County FA changed?’ she asked. The feelings were mixed. Some members said that there was definitely a change for the better but there was still room for improvement. It was easier to get to speak to someone instead of being met with an answer phone that didn’t elicit a reply. Others however were still unhappy about the treatment they received from B&B staff members.
Some felt affronted when their misconduct reports were queried or that their integrity was being challenged. It was also thought that sometimes opinions were given to questions that needed factual answers. The question was asked if it was possible for referees to be able to track what happens once they have sent in reports. Liz said she would look at that but couldn’t make any promises.
On the question of the County handbook, Liz said that the competition rules can be found on the website and anyone receiving a County appointment will be made aware of this. Those referees without computers could request paper copies but it was not intended to produce them in quantity. As to the difficulty in locating referees or clubs in the handbook the County was producing an app for mobile phones that will have a search process.
Apart from their own goals, the County FA were also given targets by the FA such as the number of training courses they run. A worrying target was not loosing more than 100 teams in 11-a-side adult football in the current four year period; they had already lost 40 in the first year. It was difficult to pinpoint the reasons but behaviour was thought to be a big issue although the state of grounds and facilities were thought to be a factor.
The target for referees was to have 90% of all 11 and 9 a-side match covered. The problem was she said the ability of getting such statistics from leagues and competitions but it was believed to be about 80% at present. They were also targeted to have seven 3G pitches available throughout the allied counties. The funding received from the FA was being reduced so they had to look at ways of self funding.
One initiative, Liz announced was the recruitment of a co-ordinator for County Cups who will work with competitions and leagues and also be responsible for referee appointments. This, she said, would overcome the issue that one member experienced at being appointed to line at a women’s semi-final when he had particularly said he wasn’t interested in doing women’s matches. (He enjoyed it so perhaps it wasn’t such a bad thing after all) This arose, said Liz, because those doing the job at present are volunteers and as such are not allowed access to these aspects of referees’ details.
She also announced that they had plans to reduce to number of Divisions in the County from seven to four. It was also hoped to improve the demographics of the committees. At the moment it was male, white, of a certain age. This was not representative of football. She also hoped to arrange meetings where anyone involved in the game could come along and have their say. It was planed to re-establish the Outstanding Referee and Young Referee of the Year Awards as she felt that went some way to encouraging refereeing. She reminded everyone that the date for re-registering as referees is 25th April and that there will be insurance on offer but it is optional.
Our thanks to Liz for ‘putting her head above the parapet’ and learning from members their experiences with the county FA and letting us know their plans and goals.