BAFA and BAFRA are aware of the challenges being faced in getting games officiated at all levels this season.
We’ve learned a number of valuable lessons that will lead to improvements going forward.
Both organisations are fully committed to an end-of-season review which will allow for honest reflection on what works, what doesn’t and how we put it right. And we also appreciate we need to be better at listening and responding to constructive feedback from the British American football community.
How did we get to where we are?
We have 149 qualified officials and recognise the high standards they maintain. However we also fully recognise the tremendous amount of time pressure placed on our referees as the sport returns to pre-Covid fixture levels. Like everyone else in our community, our officials also have personal and family commitments which means they won’t necessarily be available every weekend.
The impact of the two-year hiatus has resulted in reduced availability of facilities or dates to host games which has compounded the issue.
A focus on the sport in the UK has never been greater and this will only increase further as we grow. There is no doubt we are on a forward trajectory, but rising popularity creates further challenges
Our sport is not alone in facing these challenges, but BAFA and BAFRA seek to rise to them by working in closer partnership.
The end-of-season evaluation will be an opportunity for a longer-term review of some of the fundamentals – such as the length of the season, the number of bye weeks and also the alignment to all formats of the game.
Although bye weeks have been built into the schedule this year, it has been for good reason. It is vital we give our national teams the best possible platform for success, and the pauses in club fixtures allow for GB practice weekends as our squads prepare for World and European champions over the coming months.
The bye weeks also provided a cushion to reschedule postponed games as a means of minimising fixture congestion, and have also been used to support NWFL fixtures on Sat urdays to relieve pressure on officials for other weekends
Over the last few competitive seasons, the schedule has ended with a finals event on the August bank holiday weekend. This year the finals are being held the weekend after.
Unavoidably, this combination of factors leaves only one weekend with no fixtures at all – which is the BAFCA convention weekend.
What are we going to do?
We know failing to decisively address the issues facing us now will only exacerbate matters – which is why our commitment to a review and to change is total.
BAFA and BAFRA are fully invested in an end-of-season review which will be an honest reflection on what works, what doesn’t and how we put it right – both now and for the future.
We need to ensure that our competition leads work more collaboratively with each other, and with BAFRA.
When developing the 2022 schedule, BAFRA worked in partnership with BAFA, who were consulted on plans and general principles. Our main learning is that BAFRA need to be involved earlier, and on a more holistic basis with all formats.
We need to recruit more officials and volunteers, and do this better. We’re working on a long-term strategy to tackle this. BAFRA are also shortly launching a new recruitment campaign, and BAFA are launching a new online recruitment hub and process.
We need to look at when games and tournaments are scheduled for our different formats, and this is part of a wider review of our competition formats.
As well as acting decisively in the ways outlined above, we recognise there is need for greater dialogue with the Britball community at large. As a result, we have launched a new mailbox for direct engagement. Please send your thoughts, ideas and feedback to: email@example.com
BAFA CEO Pete Ackerley will also be holding a ‘town hall’ meeting at this year’s BAFCA convention – open to all coaches and BAFA members. Attendees will have an opportunity to hear directly from Pete, share their views openly and honestly and ask any burning questions.
Over the next few weeks, we are anticipating some further challenges and pinch points, and we’ll be continuing to work closely together with teams to see how we can address these.
We will work closely with BAFRA and impacted teams to see if there are opportunities to be more strategic with officiating crew allocations to spread the workload, and whether there is any leeway to move some games to a quieter weekend.
How can you help?
We are one sport, and one football family. We continue to strive toward our long-term vision to professionalise our game and inspire more people to play and play a part.
If you want to raise your hand to help us, you can get in touch with BAFRA about becoming an official by visiting https://www.bafra.info/info/howtojoin.php or if you would like to volunteer with BAFA, contact firstname.lastname@example.org