Norfolk FA to stage series of roadshows to try and breathe new life into local football

King's Lynn Sunday League action. William Burt (black/white) v The Maltings (orange). Picture: Ian Burt King's Lynn Sunday League action. William Burt (black/white) v The Maltings (orange). Picture: Ian Burt

Saturday, February 15, 2014
9:23 AM

Sports reporter Mark Armstrong talks to Shaun Turner about how the Norfolk FA chief executive seeks to breathe new life into local football

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Anglian Combination could be regionalised

Perhaps the biggest change proposed is to the non-league pyramid from Anglian Combination Premier downwards.

Whilst the Anglian Combination Premier, Division One and Division Two would remain as they are there would be four divisions underneath that would be regionalised into north and south categories.

Meanwhile the top two teams in each division of the district leagues would then be promoted to the Anglian Combination north or south category, depending on their location in the county. At this stage it is only a discussion document but early indications are that the district leagues are happy to proceed although Anglian Combination officials want more information before deciding whether to support the changes.

“We’re looking to regionalise the lower leagues of the Anglian Combination to save on travel because people are potentially travelling from Hemsby to Clenchwharton on a Saturday afternoon in Division Six,” said Turner.

“We’ve put a discussion document out, which will be put out at the roadshow just to see what people’s views are. If this comes in place then it protects the district leagues and it also protects the Anglian Combination in that they know they are going to get better teams in their league because they are going to be winners of the district leagues.

“All the district leagues have bought into it and there are no footballing reasons not to consider this other than historical.”

Turner also confirmed that a pilot scheme has been put forward to the cup committee that would see the Norfolk Primary Cup regionalised in the same way the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy is in the Football League.

Meanwhile, Norfolk FA is proposing that all leagues throughout the county sign up to a standard set of rules both on and off the pitch. Too often clubs are falling foul of a rule break in one league that doesn’t apply in another.

“Some of our structures are very antiquated, bureaucratic and inconsistent,” admitted Turner, who has promised to once again incentivise teams within leagues that sign up to the changes. “What we’ve tried to do is get all leagues to come on board to a standard set of rules that will run across the county.

“We’re trying to help the secretary, who might have five teams in five different leagues with five different sets of variations in their rules.

“We have proposed a standard set of rules for all leagues to follow. If leagues choose to follow these rules we’ve incentivised that we’re going to maintain the fees for this season but we have also said we will supply the leagues with a load of match balls so that they can present a team of the month.

“If all leagues buy into that then there will be an outlay from us of about £5,000. It’s another £5,000 we’re trying to put back into the clubs.”

In the spirit of standardisation the fees that Norfolk FA charge to affiliate to them will all be the same whether you are an adult or a youth side.

“What that means is that two of our fees have come down for adult and mainstream football but youth football fees have gone up slightly,” said Turner. “There is not an issue in youth football at the moment and this is a time when we need to help the adult game.”

Norfolk FA is staging a series of roadshows to highlight proposals aiming to arrest the decline in grassroots football across the county.

After digesting an all-encompassing survey asking why there had been a five per cent drop in the number of teams affiliated to Norfolk FA, chief executive Shaun Turner and his band of merry men have formulated ideas to attract players back into the game.

The next few weeks will be vital if the raft of changes proposed can be implemented for next season.

The proposals can be boiled down into three key elements.

Cost – ‘breaking the myth’ the game has become too expensive to play and regionalising leagues to cut down on journey time.

Standardisation – rules and fees to be the same across the board at adult and youth level.

Referees – improving standards

However, Turner acknowledges that key to these proposals is how they are presented to individuals. Not everything will be popular with everybody but Turner hopes people bear in mind that it is the 1,400 players that took part in the survey that have asked for these changes as Norfolk FA looks to protect the game loved by so many in the county.

People will have three chances to have their say at the roadshows, which will take place at:

Fakenham Town FC – Thursday, February 27, 7-9pm

Football Development Centre, Norwich – Monday, March 3, 7-9pm

Lynn Grove High School, Gorleston – Tuesday, March 4, 7-9pm

Turner hopes people take the time to come and have their say on the proposals. If there is a level of apathy towards the game then that five per cent figure is only going to increase over the years.

“We are going to see what it looks like from the roadshows – if we get 100 people turn up at every roadshow we know there is some interest out there,” he said. “If we get 10 people turn up then we know that there is very little interest in the regulatory side of things. If that’s the case then I suppose people have to accept what the rules are and can’t whinge about them.

“We want to try and educate and try to get people to come and have their say. At the roadshows it’s not going to be about whinging about what happened 15 years ago. It’s about dealing with what we’ve got now and how we can make it better moving forward. Too many people in football love to chat about the old days and say how great it was. The old days are gone – we’re in 2014 so we need to talk about 2014 onwards.”

Key to sustaining the proposals will be in the FA’s communication to the players and educating them on how the regulatory side of football should proceed. “There will be complications – that’s why we’re trying to get the information out there to the players,” added Turner. “Through our player database we can better educate them. Without them we don’t have a game.”

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