The new BAFA Board (And why I’m excited about it)

DC’s editor and owner shares his thoughts following yesterday’s exciting announcement of the interim British American Football Association Board

 


Even though I write on this website each and every day… I don’t actually write much in the way of opinions or editorials anymore. It’s all editing, or news, or building the site behind the scenes, or stock articles like Predictions and Power Rankings…

So I hope you’ll indulge me on this occasion? Apologies if it’s a bit longwinded, but as the title says…


By the time you’re reading this, I’m on my way up to the 2018 BAFCA Convention in Nottingham… and I’m pretty excited.

It’s not so much the convention itself, though that’s not to say it’s not worthy of some excitement of its own. I attended for the first time last year and it’s a great learning experience. I wasn’t even there to learn, I was attending as ‘press’, and so my focus was on taking photos and videos and getting a feel for the event itself so that it could then be shared with a wider audience, rather than actually paying attention to the sessions…

But with the charisma and knowledge that was on hand last year? You couldn’t help but pick up information and insights.

However, in contrast to today, I’ve got to say I was pretty nervous heading up to Nottingham last year.

I hadn’t long taken over the website, hadn’t had all that many chances to meet the wider community, and most trips to events as DC still came with the off snarky comment or disapproving look. More specifically, I was concerned about just feeling generally out of place and awkward – as the only ‘media’ in attendance, would I end up a pariah, sat alone in the corner?

 

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I had nothing to worry about.

The thing is, when you stick that many people that are as passionate as you are about American Football all in one place… and maybe throw in a bar?

You can’t help but find things to talk about and I’d really recommend any coaches or prospective coaches that haven’t yet attended a convention, do so.

 

Anyway, as I said, #BAFCA18’s not why I’m excited.

No, instead, this year as I travel up to Nottingham it’ll be with a positive vibe we’ve not felt in the sport in quite a while.

Yesterday the British sport took its next step forward, with the announcement of its new Interim Board of Directors for the National Governing Body for American Football in England, Scotland and Wales – the BAFA Board.

The new board has the potential to represent a step-change in how the sport is governed. 

At first glance, it’s got a great blend of old and new.

There’ll be a few names that those who’ve been around the sport for a while will be familiar with – but who also bring professional expertise from their non-Britball-life to the table! Alongside this, we see a range of industry experts who perhaps have little-to-no previous links to Britball – fresh pairs of eyes with sharp minds, ready to play a role in taking the British game to the next level!

Sure, some may try to quash any excitement about how significant this change actually is…

I mean, if you were only to look at the numbers, these incoming board members are only actually obligated to commit a couple of hours a week to their roles… How much of a difference can this really make?

Well, I guess we’ll know in the coming months, but I’m feeling pretty damn positive about it.

If you start right at the top, you’ve got Nichole McCulloch who, pending confirmation from the BAFA Membership at an AGM in September, will become the new Chair of the Board. She’s built a successful career in leadership development and talent placement… which to me sounds like finding the right people for the right jobs, and helping those in leadership roles, lead better.

Immediately, I can’t help but think that the British game is crying out for more ‘full-time’ support. The appointment of a full-time BAFA Schools Director, Rob Rooksby, last year and the successes that he’s been able to achieve since he’s been in post only go to show what a difference this can make!

If, and here’s hoping it’s the case, the board is transitioning towards greater levels of people management? It looks like a rather savvy move to put a professional-people-finder in lead role.

Across the board, it certainly looks like we’ve got a great blend of professionalism and passion.

So many of the holes in BAFA’s metaphorical ship over the years look to have been plugged – by both this new board structure, and the people that have stepped up to fill the roles it has created.

Personally, I’m really excited to see the evolution of the Business Development and Communications roles.

They’re two areas where the sport has been found wanting, and yet are crucial to driving the sport forwards – expanding engagement and investment, and growing both the community itself and the sport’s potential audience. I’ve got great hopes for Graham Swanson and Geoff Jein, who both bring history with the British game, alongside their highly-relevant professional knowledge and expertise, to their roles.

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As I’ve said many times before: ultimately, I took on DC as a full-time vocation because I wanted to see the sport I love grow in this country. I knew even making a single paycheque off promoting an amateur sport was gonna be tough (18 months later and still working to crack that one :/ ) so even if Dblcoverage.com’s not around to see it?

I’m thrilled as a fan of the game to see the sheer potential that the future now holds.

Of course, credit where credit’s due – it’s important that we don’t forget how we got here!

It’s worth remembering that we’re only here thanks to the work of the current BAFA board and their predecessors. Alongside the stakeholder engagement, consultancy, research and recruitment mentioned above to actually bring about this change, you’ve also got to consider the years of graft that went in beforehand to make it all possible.

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Go back 20 years and look at the state of the British game. Britball’s golden era was coming to a close and BAFA had ~£10k in the bank.

Even when BAFA took over running the leagues themselves in 2010 following the collapse of BAFL? The cup didn’t exactly runneth over! With about £50k in the pot, BAFA began the task of putting the British game back together following the controversial split between League and NGB that almost saw the British game fall flat on its face.

Fast forward to now?

Well, actually the last couple of years have seen BAFA spend more money than ever before!

Sure, critics may claim it’s all gone on trips to the Bahamas and similar… but if we’re being really honest there’s been a lot going on in the last couple of years that hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves.

We’ve seen the massive growth of the BAFA Schools Programme, hosted international tournaments in large stadiums with live broadcasts of the fixtures, and developed the National Programmes so that they’re able to truly compete on an international level once more. 

As such, while BAFA have spent a fair chunk of moula in the past two years, it’s to the credit of the Association that in just the space of a few years they built to a point where they even had that kinda money to spend! Consistent years of community growth and relative stability has allowed us to reach the point where our NGB can actually afford to host things like membership engagement events, and bring in consultants such as Sports Structures who took the lead in the recent recruitment process.

Now don’t misunderstand me. The record is far from unblemished, and I think even the Board members themselves would tell you they were well aware they had their share of shortcomings (U17/19 schedules, wherefore art thou?) and made plenty of mistakes… They’re not perfect, and they know it, too.

But it takes a lot of guts for those in charge of the sport to essentially step up to the plate and say:

“We love this sport and we want the sport to have a bright future, too. As such, we’re gonna put the work in to make sure we find skilled and experienced people to lead the way in upgrading American Football in the UK… even if it means it’s not us!”

They could have easily stuck with the status quo, and outside the usual wealth of online griping that’ll ultimately persist either way?

Odds are a fair portion of the sport’s current community wouldn’t have known any different. So long as they get to pad up on Sunday, they’re dandy.

However, while we learned yesterday that potentially many of the familiar faces will continue on in operational roles going forwards, the big picture is that the board stepped up… knowing full well that in many cases? This also meant stepping out.

Kudos.

The new board is an exciting line-up with great potential for the sport.

Thank you to all those involved, and congrats to those selected. It’s felt a rare thing to have positive vibes around the sport of late and I’m looking forward to what the future holds for British American Football… and I hope you are too.

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Nick

Nick 'Willy Tee' Wilson-Town hails from the South West where he's spent the last decade bouncing around various teams at the university and senior level. He came to fame on the now departed unofficial forum thanks to his regularly irreverent Uniball predictions and general 'BUAFL wafflage'. Follow him on twitter @WillyTee1