I hope everyone is safe and well.
It has been a while since my last update and the fluidity of the current Covid-19 landscape, has resulted in some significant changes across Wiltshire County FA, which I would like to take a moment to update you on.
Pleasingly grassroots football has re-emerged from lockdown and whilst we are all operating under new Covid-19 restrictions, I am sure you are as delighted as I am, that we can again offer football to our local communities.
I appreciate these new restrictions and the frequent changes in grassroots football guidance, have placed the volunteer network under considerable pressure and I want to thank you all for your patience and understanding during this difficult period.
As I explained back in May, Wiltshire FA has not been immune to the financial challenges presented by Covid-19. We too have suffered considerably as an organisation, resulting in our football activity pausing, thus zero income into the Association. We placed 9 of our 12 staff on furlough between 19th March and 1st September, operating the County FA with just four key workers. This would be challenging under any normal circumstances, however during this period we were also handed the keys to our new HQ in Devizes and in addition, we were hit with a 23% cut in central FA grant funding. When you add this to the existing financial uncertainty it means we were already forecasting the largest company losses in living memory for season 2020/21.
As a result, Wiltshire FA was left with no choice but to initiate a company restructure, to mitigate against the financial losses and this resulted in three roles being made redundant (Senior Football Development Officer SFDO, Referee Development Officer RDO and League and Competitions Officer L&CO). These roles ceased on 1st September and we have now implemented a new staffing structure.
I want to take this opportunity to reassure people that the disbanding of the above roles does not mean that our work in these areas stops, instead we are already putting in place new processes and innovative ways of working, which will enable us to provide the same service and continue to develop the grassroots game in Wiltshire. As an example, referee development, we have recruited Simon Hooper Premier League referee and our most senior official in the County, as our Senior Referee Representative on the Council. We have recruited Ella Broad, Level 5 referee and FA McDonalds Referee of the Year, as our new Football Assistant. We have also met with our league Referee Appointment Officers and agreed a new approach to appointments for County Cups and we have scheduled three referee CPD webinars between Oct-Dec. Finally, we have put the wheels in motion for a new referee mentoring programme, utilising our senior officials within the County. I hope you agree, positive steps in a challenging environment. If you wish to speak to a member of the Wiltshire FA team about any matters relating to your specific engagement in football, then please use the staff contacts list by clicking here
Whilst the last 8 months have been extremely challenging for Wiltshire FA, we did continue to move forward and make some important decisions with the best interests of our members and participants in mind. This included, offering free affiliation to all leagues and clubs in Wiltshire, providing free registration to County referees, completing four of our 2019/20 County Cup finals, and recognising our local football heroes through the McDonalds Grassroots Awards. In addition, we opened Green Lane Playing Fields and have been able to provide a new base for Devizes Town Youth F.C and Bishops Canning Youth F.C, who have started activity on the new facility.
Finally, I want to highlight some of the key priorities for Wiltshire FA over the next 12 months.
- We will collaborate with our referee network to create a new holistic strategy for referee development in Wiltshire.
- We will prepare the Association for the transition to a new online coach education programme, which is currently being developed by FA Learning, and we will lead the development of a new enhanced coach CPD offer in Wiltshire.
- We will continue to develop the Wiltshire Women’s and Girls’ League and we have just launched the FA Girls Advanced Coaching Centre, which now operates out of Green Lane in Devizes.
- We have some exciting plans for the continued development of walking football, and we have launched the new season of the Wiltshire Veterans League. In addition, we are just about to launch a central walking football league and brand-new County small sided football league in Devizes.
- Finally, The Swindon and Wiltshire Inclusion Advisory Group have created a new equality action plan for football, and this will be launched in the coming weeks.
To finish, I want to reiterate my thanks to all of you for sticking with us during these unprecedented times. I am immensely proud of the action taken by our member leagues, clubs and volunteers to keep football moving during the pandemic and I wish you all the very best for the season.
Chief Executive Officer
Wiltshire County FA