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We come to the end of a year which has, of course, been challenging but has also been immensely rewarding.

Challenging because, like many organisations – sporting and other – we have had to face the immense task of regrouping and restarting a full competitive season and the return of National Finals and GB programmes.

None of us are under any illusion about the immense impact that lockdown had on our sport in 2020 and 2021, but what has been rewarding is the manner in which the Britball community got itself back on its feet.

So I want to start by thanking every individual who has dedicated time and energy to the cause. It reaffirms the commitment that exists to grow our sport.

This commitment also drives us as an organisation. At British American Football we have introduced a culture of greater engagement – we have listened and we have learned. I personally have very much enjoyed and benefited from hearing thoughts from varied perspectives and sharing those of our own communities of football

I reflect fondly on numerous opportunities this year that I have had to immerse myself in the varied aspects of our sport. From attending the CFL combine and the first BAFCA convention since Covid, to getting out and about to see teams play.

I have attended Finals events around the country – including the BUCS final in Nottingham, the Women’s Premiership Finals in Chester, the Adult and Youth Flag finals in Manchester and the Britbowl weekend in London.

Holding a face-to-face AGM and club meetings has been educational and attending Hall of Fame presentations in Scotland and Manchester, inspirational.

Identifying where change is needed is arguably the easier part. The challenge we face here lies in putting in place the processes that make that change happen. But what is rewarding in this regard is the progress we are making on this journey.

Over the past 12 months we have continued to build solid foundations which will help us build and professionalise the game. And while we recognise the challenges and hold our hands up where improvement was called for, I make no apology for being totally committed to the path we are now on. We reflect on the past, but choose also to look to the future.

Much of the work to make this happen goes on behind the scenes. We are growing in stature as a governing body, becoming increasingly credible as an organisation equipped to take its rightful place at the top table of British sport. And we have the unsung heroes of British American Football to thank.  Our own volunteer workforce.

Sadly, there are times when I have questioned whether their involvement is truly acknowledged and appreciated by wider stakeholders. At times it has pained me to see impassioned debate and frustration become fractious. It is fair for our membership to hold us to account, but unfair when righteous anger is mis-channelled and directed towards individuals rather than through constructive feedback to the wider organisation.

Yes, it is true that we cannot agree on all things, but one thing I hope we can agree on is in recognising the passion and dedication that our BAFA volunteers show in keeping us all on track.

Social media aficionados amongst you will have seen the BAFA advent calendar, our seasonally-themed reflection of the work that has taken place within the organisation over the 2022. This is our acknowledgement of the breadth of contribution from our volunteer workforce across all aspects of the game.

The progress we are now making is driven by them. So, in much the same way that I salute the efforts of referees, coaches, administrators and players across the game, so too I ask that you recognise the work that BAFA as a collective is doing through its volunteers to improve the game for all of us.

A very merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it, and I wish everyone a peaceful and relaxing festive season and a happy New Year. I hope you’re all able to take some time over the holidays to recharge with your loved ones and get ready to tackle the fresh opportunities and challenges that lie ahead so together we can make 2023 another great year for our sport