Shaun Turner happy to prove the Norfolk FA model has worked – but more needs to come

Shaun Turner proudly wearing he FA badge. Picture: Norfolk FA

Shaun Turner proudly wearing he FA badge. Picture: Norfolk FA - Credit: The FA via Getty Images

Shaun Turner had his run-ins during his role as Norfolk FA chief – but nothing that will take away from the pride he feels towards his legacy.

Shaun Turner proudly wearing he FA badge. Picture: Norfolk FA

Shaun Turner proudly wearing he FA badge. Picture: Norfolk FA - Credit: The FA via Getty Images

Turner was their seventh employee based at Plantation Park back in 2003. Now the county's governing body has 35 staff across four sites – including three football development centres. The flagship FDC at Bowthorpe hosted 80 matches last season and numerous more training sessions.

Turner has left Norfolk FA this month after 11 years in the top job – a stint that be praised and met resistance from a sport that is full of passion and opinion.

'When I took over I genuinely had very little idea what was involved or the complexities of a volunteer sector that covers the whole county and involves 30,000 people every week.

'I realised we had opportunities – but if we didn't grab them, the game would get left behind. It's still a bit of a fear of mine.

'Football can be archaic. It has some real core values and traditions, and I'm an advocate of that. But I'm also a realist. You see where the last 10 years have gone: social media, Sunday trading, two recessions. You have to react to that and embrace change.

'There are lots of individuals who have given their life to the game and they should be commended. But do they think about what it's like for the current player? Do they understand the social media, socio-economics and everything going on in their lives – or just say we've always done it this way so we'll always do it this way? Otherwise nothing changes.

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'If everyone works together, there is hope. Some of our leagues are growing, some are decreasing, but there are opportunities.'

County Fives offered a different option to the 11-a-side game and proved a success – some may argue to the detriment of a traditional game, that may have declined anyway.

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Norfolk FA is one of only three across the country to have centralised referee appointments and player registrations, meaning they can now track trends in players' choices and availability.

And there is Bowthorpe – Turner's proudest achievement.

'We've shown the model works because we've opened two additional ones in partnership with schools,' said Turner.

'When I went to the board and said I want to buy Powerleague, they said I was nuts. So I put in a robust plan, got some funding partners and asked them to trust me – I'll never forget that. I think football should thank them for that too.

'That's what is so great. We rely on volunteers – coaches, referees, the person putting up the goals. That's why we've got the FDC – if we've got facilities then we can offer cheaper prices.

'Don't get me wrong, money is made and we have to balance the books. But once they do, it gets reinvested into trying to do things better, improve IT, putting another facility in a different part of the county. Not lining someone's pockets as a shareholder.'

• Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey and Facebook @mbjourno

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