Norfolk FA chief uses organisation’s roadshows to encourage a modern outlook

Norman Wanderers in action against The Pod at the Locksley School ground. Photo: Steve Adams

Norman Wanderers in action against The Pod at the Locksley School ground. Photo: Steve Adams

Norfolk FA used the first of their three roadshows last night to urge football's volunteers to drag the game into the 21st century.

Chief executive Shaun Turner spoke passionately to a small gathering at Fakenham Town's Clipbush Park about how county chiefs are desperate to arrest the decline in the area's grassroots game.

After a five per cent drop in the number of teams affiliated to Norfolk FA, Turner was keen to remind managers and secretaries that the power of the sport's amateur scene still remains in their hands.

And the chief executive offered over a host of alternatives that could help sides combat the belief – cited by a host of players who filled out an all-encompassing survey about the reasons behind the current decline – that the cost of football is too much.

Turner said: 'Clubs and people aren't always good at collecting money.

'We've got to try to get away from the system of taking money and marking a book and are trying to show ways that it can be done. A lot of players in other sports pay membership for the season in one lump sump. It's not suitable for everyone so we're just offering different options.

'We now have a generation of footballers who do things on the move, like transferring money on their phones. The days of handing money over can go if people want it to.

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'We're just giving you ideas to try and do things differently because if we carry on doing what we've always done – football's still set in its ways and caked in tradition – there won't necessarily be a game in 10 years.'

With an open floor offered, the buzz words were for attendees to think outside of the box and do things differently. Monthly direct debits, lump sum payments, online club banking and other ideas were discussed as new ways to ensure that financial difficulties do not prevail. The choice of sides opting into different insurance bands, a seemingly popular ideal that referees' fees could become standardised, and rules and fees being set at the same level across all leagues were muted.

Reduced affiliation fees, with increased ones for clubs in the 'thriving' youth scene, are hoped to entice more people back to the beautiful game and reduce expenditure, as is the desire to increase the transparency from within the halls of the county's headquarters.

Turner said: 'We can only recommend. You, and your leagues have the power. We can incentivise by offering goodies and reduced fees, but you vote at your AGMs. We're trying to be so open. Rather than sitting in our 'ivory towers' and 'being the boys in blazers', we're keen to get out and get rid of those perceptions. The game is yours. The power is yours. We just want to be better at looking after our customers.'

The next roadshow will take place at the Football Development Centre in Norwich on Monday (7-9pm) and Lynn Grove High School in Gorleston on Tuesday (7-9pm).