April 23 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Norfolk football is on the decline.
Whilst Norwich City thrive in the Premier League, at least off the pitch, lower down the ladder saw an alarming five per cent drop over the summer in the number of teams affiliated to Norfolk FA.
The sight of a group of friends running off the excesses of the night before each and every weekend could be a thing of the past unless action is taken.
Fortunately, the county FA have taken action and commissioned one of “the most important surveys we’ve ever done” looking to entice players back into the beautiful game.
A total of 1,400 players (out of 11,500) took part in the fact-finding mission and the results have been published in a 23-page document this morning.
The results can be boiled down into three key issues players have identified why they are falling out of love with the game:
- It’s too expensive
- It takes too much time out of the day
- Poor standard of match officials
The findings came as something of a relief for chief executive, Shaun Turner, as they are three issues his body can affect and have some control over.
The concern was players would highlight problems that are beyond Norfolk FA’s remit – disciplinary procedures for example are a FIFA directive and must be enforced.
But Turner is pleased with his team’s findings and is confident he can set about a change that could encourage players to come back or stay in the game.
“I think it’s given us a very good platform to start looking at some of the issues over the coming months,” said Turner. “It has given us that starting point to develop some proposals and to feed back on other issues that have been raised.”
Out of the players that had stopped playing the game a majority thought it had become too expensive as a result of match fees and travel. However, Turner is looking into the possibility of regionalising some leagues to cut down on players’ journey times.
“If you’re playing in the Anglian Combination Division Six they might have to travel the length of the county to play a game,” admitted Turner. “It might be time for us to review that and if you’re playing junior football we might need to look at regionalising to make the travelling distances shorter because we see it in some of the county cups. If a team from King’s Lynn have got to come over to Yarmouth and it’s an hour and a half trip they’re calling it off and it’s a walkover.
“We are going to work with them and maybe see if we can regionalise some of the lower divisions of perhaps the Anglian Combination and maybe the district leagues as well to reduce travelling. When you get to a fairly decent standard you have to accept that you are now going to go county wide.
“I would also say in terms of other expenses like match fees that you would be hard pushed to play a hobby for two hours for less than a fiver nowadays.
“There is a perception out there that football is expensive and it does all add up at the start of a season but I think that’s good value for money – I think it’s about making that more visible and more simplified.”
The standard of match officials is also something that needs to change according to the survey and Turner confirmed the FA’s intention to run annual assessments of referees to ensure they are up to the level required.
“Hopefully it will help our referees,” added Turner. “We can continue to educate them, be it with updates with the laws and competition structures that may be coming in.
“If we can give our referees more tools for their toolbox that will hopefully help them on a Saturday or a Sunday to manage the games better and if they do that they can manage players even more efficiently and the games go even more smoothly.”
Turner also revealed he hopes to standardise all 19 leagues in Norfolk to ensure all are playing by the same set of rules both on and off the pitch.
“This is something we desperately want leagues to buy into because if you’ve got teams playing in the Ang Com, Central and South Norfolk, and then a Sunday team – they might have three different sets of rules,” he said. “What people are saying is that they would like all the rules to be the same – things like when a result has to be texted in.
“I would love that because then whatever league you’re in as a club you know you have for example 30 minutes to get your result text in and job done.
“It’s just trying to make everything easier. Whether or not 19 leagues will join in with that is my next challenge. We’ve got a chance to influence that and hopefully leagues will come with us.”
Turner and Co. now plan to formulate the survey findings into a set of proposals to take forward to the League Development Conference to be held in January.
“This will be the key session of the day – the survey and us putting forward some proposals to try and address some of the issues that have been highlighted,” he said.
“We have then got another league forum in February but during that time we are going to hold some drop-in centres for clubs so they can give us some more views and more importantly give us some solutions.
“Hopefully we can put all our proposals together and go to the relevant sanctions committee, which we hold in March and then the Norfolk County FA AGM in June to be implemented for the new season.”