We are pleased to announce the conclusion of our root and branch review of Flag Football and a new direction for the sport in Britain commencing with immediate effect.
We appreciate everyone’s patience as this has been a lengthier process than anticipated and to ensure that you and your teams understand what’s next for Flag including signing up for this year’s events. Please read on…
Our review has encompassed all BAFA Flag operations and has taken into account four key inputs;
1) Your contributed feedback (See image – categories appearing most often rather than largest were the most regularly fed back)
2) Internal analysis, lessons learned and team observations
3) Additional requirements associated with Olympic sport status
4) Discussion and comparison with other UK sports and governing bodies who run similarly niche sports or whose formats have received Olympic status recently (e.g. British Cycling and British Baseball Federation) and have successfully made the transition.
Key Review Conclusions:
Positively, both community feedback and comparison with other governing bodies has broadly aligned with the anticipated direction for BAFA Flag and our internal aspirations. The key conclusions which will guide our immediate actions were as follows:
We need greater agility in operations and governance so that we can be responsive to what will be a rapidly changing environment for a new Olympic sport and we need to be mindful of regionalised nuances as we continue that journey.
Despite the dedication of our internal team, we have reached a point where it is no longer feasible for the sport to function with a solely volunteer workforce without negatively impacting their wellbeing. This is further emphasised by the community’s desire to see a continued increase in standards and the additional governance demands being placed on the NGB to meet the required criteria for both Olympic recognition and funding in the current climate. Being mindful of our current funding constraints we must therefore lean on other levers to meet our joint aspirations.
Our funding journey to date has been arduous and unfortunately fruitless, this means that memberships and fees must be reviewed to give the sport the best possible chance of success in Britain. A financially unstable sport ultimately isn’t considered a fundable sport, funding is limited to specific diversity categories and based on our lessons learned it isn’t prudent to act based on promised but not yet materialised funding as it can be withdrawn at any time.
In addition to the above, whilst participation and current economic circumstances are front of mind, we have to face the reality that our memberships / entry fees are significantly lower than Flag Football events or leagues across the globe (ranging from £225 – £1500+ equivalent for one day or weekend events) and in many circumstances these events are less complex than ours domestically. We must also learn from domestic niche sports who are financially stable and successful.
We need to standardise and create more clarity around progression pathways in the sport, in particular for players and coaches, and make them more accessible to all. When viewed alongside the community’s desire to see standards continue to improve, it is clear that we need to continue to differentiate BAFA leagues and events as flagship events for the sport in the UK and from which GB talent can be initially scouted. This naturally creates room for other competitions and events (governed but not run by BAFA) to be created, in turn increasing opportunities to play for everyone.
To grow the game we must complete our sporting pyramid and ensure the right support is in place to make it function long term. This means dedicating resource throughout 2024 to enable both university and school play, integrating them into our structures from 2025 and also build out a functional, confident and competant group of both officials and coaches.
Where we are at today…
…and where we are heading
Taking into account the conclusions of the review, we have created an immediate action plan for 2024 to kick off our strategic journey as we progress towards 2028 and build a better future for Flag Football in Britain. This plan has been based on four principles, considering the overall BAFA vision building blocks which are Participation, People, Places to Play and Performance Pathways.
Creating high quality and year round opportunities for play which account for the different motivations and aspirations of those in the current and future community
Raising competitive standards across all formats
Balancing financial stability with accessibility
Recognising and being realistic about the constraints and limitations Flag Football faces as a niche sport in Britain
All of this information has been distilled into a wider roadmap (shown below) but more importantly the immediate next steps for the coming cycle.
Operational & Organisational
It has become increasingly clear that there remains confusion in the community regarding the way we operate and furthermore we cannot support them consistently or effectively in our current model. With this in mind it is important to hit the reset button to ensure transparency as we move forward and therefore the current Commission will be disolved in order to enable the creation of a new structure. The immediate outcomes of this intention are as follows:
Integrated British Flag Football development and advisory organisation within BAFA (name TBC).
Competition operations will be removed from the afforementioned organisation’s remit in order to create more volunteer appropriate roles. In parallel, we will work with a known supplier to prototype operational outsourcing ensuring the rapid restart of the NFFL and Youth competitions, whilst simultaneously inviting organisations to tender for their management commencing June 2024. This follows a similar model which has proven successful for Baseball, Basketball, Tag Rugby and Football across the UK and one which creates clarity between rules and regulations through the seperation of operations.
All current volunteers will be stood down, presenting them the opportunity to reassess their personal commitments and circumstances following a difficult year for the team. We will also employ a structured interview process for new roles to ensure we have the right skills for the future organisation, with roles being released in a staggered fashion.
We recognise that to go far it takes a village and so we will reform the regional representative roles into format specific advisory roles providing active insight into regional nuances and providing input into sport strategy as we progress into the future. The hope is that this will enable greater transparency and collaboration between BAFA and the community.
As an interim measure Kyle Taylor will retain oversight of Flag Football operations to ensure a continuation of leadership until the new organisation is functional.
With these changes we will also need to review the way that we communicate (a key theme in the community feedback also) and so current channels including mailboxes and community threads will be closed down and limited to enable us to refresh our processes. In the interim, any queries can be directed to Kyle Taylor via email.
We appreciate how passionate our community are about the game and we hope that this active hard reset shows our commitment to the game and will allow us to move past any existing concerns or blockers.
Playwaze is currently being refreshed in order to embed new functionality and cleanse profile duplicates of which a significant number have unfortunately been made. During this process individuals may find that they lose their profile if duplicates exist and may have to sign up again once the process is complete, we will do our best to avoid this but there is a risk this may occur.
With regard to youth players, youth team managers should also be aware of this risk and we may need to reach out to you in order to clarify profile information.
In addition, to meet new incoming sport reporting regulations associated with the Olympics and funding discussions we need to ask for the support of everyone to provide additional profile data in Playwaze and a request will be sent to all in the near future. We would greatly appreciate everyone actively engaging with this process.
ACTION: As an immediate action and to support an efficient restart to operations, all Team Managers are asked to ensure their contact details are up to date in Playwaze before January 22nd.
Though slightly delayed, we will be adapting the Flag Football specific rules and regulations as we do annually ahead of the NFFL. This will happen in parallel to team sign-up for this competition, though changes will be process oriented rather than making a material difference to the competition itself.
Memberships and Fees
All memberships will re-open in late January, upon completion of clean-up activity in Playwaze – Further confirmation will be provided once available. These have been reviewed following a 10 year lock in for most formats and will follow a new segmented and simplified structure which seperates membership from competition entry (as was established in Youth in 2023). Making this change allows for us;
To meet our aspiration of building a Flag specific membership benefits package for our community. We have already commenced work on this and the initial package will include the following;
Playing / Coaching insurance in the UK
Playing / Coaching insurance in Europe
Discounted event insurance to members who have aspirations to run their own events
GB programme eligibility
In addition. membership should be:
To be more transparent and offer greater flexibility to both player and team aspirations, whilst not disadvantaging new joiners who may find the sport mid-cycle by leveraging pro-rata fees.
to create the space for those who may just want to participate in the sport but not in national leagues
to have a clearer bolt-on or pick and mix model to suit the circumstances and aspirations of any individual e.g. Player + Coach.
As part of this change we will see the abolishment of team fees in adult formats for simplicity of administration and have tweaked our youth team fees to simplify the model launched in 2023. Youth fees will remain team based, to allow us to provide bulk discounts which incentivise and reward club growth as well as simplify administration for those managing youth teams.
Upon review we have concluded that we will continue with the regional grand-prix model for BAFA youth events established in 2023. Particular consideration was given to the following areas;
If we are to meet our ambition to integrate school teams we must create an accessible and short commitment format. This also allows for the establishment and immediate participation of youth teams throughout the year.
We have significant resource and officiating constraints to manage
We want to be able to assure higher standards in Youth Flag and in season complaints have reduced drastically in this cycle
We want to normalise reasonable travel as part of youth play, preparing them for the next level and encourage teams who have the ambition to seek competition further afield for their own development and comradery
We firmly believe that youth players should see reward for their efforts on the day not multiple competitions down the line as is the case in a league setting
On average all participating youth teams saw the equivalent or more games than in 2022
2023 was the first season in multiple years in which no youth teams folded mid-season
We do however appreciate that there are still improvements to be made and different teams and players will have different aspirations, therefore we will also be seeking trusted partners to provide more localised play with BAFA oversight in order to assure standards and create additional opportunity to play.
Lastly, we will roll back to the standardised U11, U14 and U17 age brackets in 2024, supported by a more structured “play-up” process, as uptake of additional brackets was not vast in 2023. Ultimately, it was too early for us to make this change and this is a lesson learned.
We have already been in consultation with the Women’s community to discuss future League improvements and determine mechanisms to provide year round play and development opportunities. We will return to and conclude these conversations during January, ensuring guidance is in place for any competition tenderer ahead of award and furthermore creating opportunities to play Women’s Flag as early as March 2024.
The NFFL will operate in 2024 following the same format as 2023 but taking into account lessons learned where applicable. Player entry fees will be set at a value of £32 to accomodate administrative costs as part of outsource prototyping and we will aim for an early February schedule finalisation. Communication to team admins will occur shortly.
Looking ahead, there is a clear desire to improve standards in the NFFL and so once the schedule is released we will commence consulation with the community to determine what that optimal model should look like in the future.