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We have enjoyed a remarkable year at British American Football. I wish to start by thanking every person invested in the development of our great sport for the part they have played. We know who you are and thank you for your devotion and input into our game, often in challenging situations. BAFA continues to grow in stature as a governing body through the tireless work of our army of volunteers and through the Britball community at large – which drives the sport forward.

Just consider for a moment all that we have achieved with the slimmest of resources and then imagine the potential we have, when the British sporting establishment – its power brokers and the funders – finally acknowledge our status as deserving of a place at the top table of British sport. We continue to grow in stature, are becoming increasingly visible in the national media and we back up statements with action.

We have been working hard to increase our media profile – and mainstream sports broadcasters have increasingly taken note. The profile of our sport across leagues, national teams – across both Flag and Contact as well as Youth and Disability has increased remarkably over the past year.

I’m sure you were as delighted as I to hear the news in October that Flag Football will become an Olympic Sport in 2028. We were anticipating this decision – and had prepared well in advance. We were on the front foot, poised and ready to engage proactively with national media across the day of the announcement.

We confidently spoke of the potential of Great Britain to deliver Women’s and Men’s teams Flag Football teams at the Olympics – and because of the tremendous strides of GB Flag over the summer, we were able in speak with conviction in terms of achievement as well as potential.

The remarkable achievement of our Women’s team and our Girls’ u17s team – each crowned European Champions during the heady month of August will live long in our memories. And for our Men’s Flag team to have qualified for the World Championships next year – a platform for Olympic qualification – speaks volumes of our progress and gives us the best possible platform to build upon.

When I speak of the dedication of the Britball community, this is a fine example in practice. A large amount of investment in our GB programmes comes directly from those involved in our teams. For us to have scaled the heights we have in 2023 is testimony to them – their investment of time and money.

The next year there will be a concerted drive to boost participation in the sport – in schools, youth clubs and universities. We are forming a range of strategic partnerships to be evangelical about Flag and investing in supporting the development of coaches and player pathways, so we can use the Olympics as a catalyst to build momentum for the long-term growth of the sport at grassroots.

Although Flag has grabbed many of the headlines, we have also once again exceeded expectations in Contact. In the international arena, over past season our GB men’s teams secured back-to-back victories against France and Denmark which have seen the #ManeMen rise up the European rankings and with the potential to become a Top Four team next year.

The strength of the Women’s game continues to grow domestically as was again in evidence this season. Domestically, Britbowl weekend was a tremendous festival of football – very healthy crowds in Coventry were treated to some enthralling games with all our major contact finals taking place in the same arena for the very first time.

During the next 12 months we will become a member of the British Olympic Association – and I will have no hesitation in reminding the great-and-the-good in the echelons of British Sports governance that we will become the only member which remains entirely self-funded.

We have to be realistic about our finances. We can’t continue to carry on as we have, as a solely member funded organisation. We must secure funding, otherwise we will be required to make serious adjustments to what we do and how we do it.

Right now we have an ongoing balancing act of making sure we can deliver our core activities and reinvest member money back into the growth and professionalisation of our sport, while also making sure we have operating reserves and don’t exceed our income.

Our national programme is already beginning to feel the bite of this, having worked on as cost-neutral a basis as possible this year. Thanks to the herculean efforts of everyone involved in our national programme, they have been able to do so and see continued improvement and be hugely competitive within the limits of their resources. Imagine what we could do with more!

We remain one of the last unfunded governing bodies in Britain, as sadly it’s not just as simple as filling in a form or ticking some boxes to access government money. In a financially challenging climate, the goal posts for securing funding – and establishing commercial partners – have been constantly moving further away.

We were delighted to have a seat at the table at the recent American football summit this month to identify an approach to developing the sport in Great Britain. This was a first for BAFA and has been the culmination of months – if not years – of campaigning to be treated as seriously as other funded governing bodies of sport.  A huge amount of time and energy has gone into getting us to this point, and we hope this will be a catalyst for further positive progress in 2024.

So I want to close by again thanking you for the energy and dedication to the cause. It reaffirms the commitment that exists to drive the growth of our sport. Have a wonderful festive break, and I wish everyone a peaceful and relaxing time and a Happy New Year.