‘Tis the season to be jolly, so on behalf of Cumberland Football Association Directors and Staff I just wanted to wish our grassroots community a Merry Christmas!
If I am honest, however, from a personal and organisational perspective, there doesn’t feel an awful lot to be cheerful about at present. We are all facing up to a cost-of-living crisis with costs spiralling, and general complaints increasing.
Overall, this season has been a challenging one for us as an Association.
We have lost two huge characters from the local game in John Twentyman, and more recently our Chairman Fred Conway. Both John and Fred leave behind a huge chasm of knowledge and character. Our thoughts go out to their families and all others who are facing up to a Christmas without a loved one.
We also are concerned about the standards in behaviour. We continue to receive reports of abuse from matches and believe that is time to say enough is enough to those who demonstrate this unacceptable behaviour. In January we will ask you all to make a New Year’s Resolution to support us as we increase our efforts in sending a clear message that the health and future of football depends upon us all taking responsibility and ensuring that high standards of behaviour are demonstrated both on and off the pitch.
We are also conscious of the current economic situation that the country is facing up to and the potential impact that this could have on those playing the grassroots game. We are therefore planning to build upon the Adult Club Support Package and launch a similar package to support junior clubs. We also plan to remove all late fines and to look at working closer with funding partners to support clubs and individuals who may require assistance in the future to ensure they can continue to develop the game in their local vicinity. More details on this area of work will be released in the new year.
However, given the season, I think it’s important to channel our inner Buddy The Elf and, as he states, remember that “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!”
So, let’s not forget to sing the grassroots game's praises!
In the main, the behaviour of the large majority of those playing and watching football, is extremely positive, with most walking away from the experience having felt it was positive and wanting to do it again.
Our clubs and leagues, and particularly those committees involved in running them, do a fantastic job, which is so much more than just being a football club or league. They have a role in their community and impact people and their lives in so many ways that transcend football. And they do this all for free!
Our welfare officers and advocates continue to safeguard and bring attention to the vital importance of safeguarding, trying to ensure that everyone involved in the beautiful game has a safe and positive experience.
Our referees also play an integral part in the game and give up their time simply because they love the game, want to stay involved and to give something back.
We're also very proud of our Lionesses who clinched the EURO 2022 title in the summer!
Sometimes we just need to stop listening to others and think for ourselves so that we can look at and consider things from a slightly different perspective.
Or as Mary Engelbreit puts it, “If you don’t like something change it; If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it”.
So, whilst I am under no illusion of the problems facing grassroots football and that addressing these issues will not be easy, I have to believe there is more good, than bad in the football world. I must keep reminding myself of all the good things we achieve together and what the power of football fundamentally means to me. I must carry this belief to keep me going.
So, applying this to Christmas, research suggests that the most important thing to most people about the holidays is spending time with family and friends. Therefore, and without wishing to trivialise things, using the change of perspective analogy, maybe I should not waste time thinking about what I haven’t got and instead be thankful and celebrate what I do have.
And do you know what, as huge family men themselves, I think John and Fred would wholeheartedly agree!
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, look after and check in on each other, and we look forward to working with you all in 2023 to make a difference through the game we love.
Chief Executive Officer at Cumberland FA