At the March open meeting Reading RA were pleased to welcome Liz Verrell, newly appointed CEO of Berks & Bucks FA. Liz is of course no stranger to the Allied Counties having previously been County Development Manager and she has been working in football ever since leaving university.
According to memory, never before have we had CEO of our County FA as a speaker before, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Liz wanted to cover four key areas, but more importantly she wanted to hear our thoughts in return.
- National Gamer Strategy (the National Game is the term the FA uses for so called grass roots i.e. not professional football
- Referees support
- Berks & Bucks FA
Berks & Bucks FA as a body and Liz as CEO have been given targets by the FA in two specific areas, for which she valued our views. One was to stop or at least slow the decline in adult eleven-a-side football and the other was to improve the number of active referees.
She was really on a fact finding mission and made notes of the comments that were forthcoming. She has since sent us a copy of her notes which have already been issued to members so it would serve no purpose to repeat them again but there were some re-occurring themes.
The decline of the eleven-a-side game can be attributed to a number of things; changes in lifestyles, the growth of small-a-side leagues and more basic reasons locally, which impinge on both problems. One is that the cost of football for local amateur players is extremely high, for example cost of pitches many of which are poorly maintained, and not good value for money.
Another and perhaps more important for referees is the standard of discipline. It is not only referees who would like to take part in a disciplined environment, many players want that too. So not only are they giving up football, they are not coming forward to referee when their playing days are over as many have done in the past. ‘What? And put up with the s*** that you get,’ said one player when asked.
How can Berks & Bucks FA help the RA?
We have had a serious decline in our own membership. It was only a few seasons ago that we were the largest branch in the country and now we have reached what is probably record low membership. One of the reasons contributing to this is that our local tutors are not being asked to ask to be involved with the basic courses now they are organised at county level. Previously they would have been able to establish a relationship with referees on the course and sell the benefits of the RA.
Is there any measure of the referees passing the basic courses that go on to complete their six games and thus become referees? It was also thought that the mentor scheme was not working, perhaps because it is not mandatory but it means many referees will probably give up very early and not become RA members. It was also thought that the lack of ‘taster courses’ that had been run locally in the past via the leagues had encouraged membership of RA with those who went on to take up refereeing.
How you can help Berks & Bucks FA?
Use the Whole Game system said Liz; it saves the County FA a lot of work.
Berks & Bucks FA
Liz explained that Berks & Bucks FA consisted of a Board of Directors , Seven Council Members elected by member clubs, seventeen paid members of staff for the development of football in the county and a football services department. There were also groups made up of staff and volunteers.
Liz certainly provided us with a different evening and we hope that it will help her reach her targets as well as helping referees in the allied counties and the RA. We thank Liz for an enjoyable evening and look forward to welcoming her to Reading RA again in the future.