CEO update | May 2020
Dear player, coach, referee, club official, supporter, member and wider Touch community.
I have now been in post a little over eight months and felt it was about the right time to provide an update on what we have been doing, how the current climate is impacting and what our plans for the future might look like.
Firstly, on behalf of the board of England Touch, I would like to say a massive thank you to all of you. I know the last couple of months have been very difficult for many and we would like to thank you for sticking with us. Touch is played, refereed, coached, organised, delivered and supported by an amazing group of people and we are lucky to be part of such a special sporting community.
What’s happening right now
I assume, like me and my family, most of you are desperate to get back on the pitch to play, coach, or officiate. Last week’s news from the government was at least a step in the right direction and those with families can head to an open space and throw a ball around now. You can also do so with a friend, so long as you maintain social distancing.
As with every other sport, we have had to put on hold both our events calendar and High Performance programmes. To date, we have postponed everything up until the end of June, but this will be reviewed in the coming weeks. There has been a lot of planning going on behind the scenes and we hope to get you back playing, coaching and refereeing competitive touch as soon as we can. We are also looking at how we can extend the season into the autumn and beyond.
Moving our membership online
In the meantime there are plenty of ways to keep touch in your life, whether it is watching a classic match over the weekend, having a weekly workout on a Monday evening with Aaron Green (strength and conditioning coach), booking onto a coaching, or refereeing course online; or taking part in our ‘developing our sport’ series of CPD workshops. We are doing as much as we can to ensure we continue to offer our members a valuable package which has been greatly expanded thanks to a new insurance provider, Sports Insure, which gives you access to the AON Plus programme.
CLICK HERE to find out more about the new membership benefits.
So, what’s next?
As CEO, I am responsible for leading the development and implementation of our five-year Business Plan and Strategy to grow the game of touch in England and in turn the subsequent reach and scope as the national governing body of the sport. We have extremely ambitious targets focused on getting more people involved in touch and engaging more effectively with those that already play. We have 1,500 individual members at the moment from a market of somewhere between 25,000 and 50,000 players. That’s between 3% and 6% of the market which presents a great opportunity for growth.
Growing the game
In order to increase the focus of this area across the organisation, I recommended to the board we changed the Development Director role title to Head of Participation, and I am delighted that Tom Hewson-Haworth has joined the team. We need to make us as good at providing services to the social player, as we have been to the more elite, performance player. This is a huge opportunity for the sport and England Touch with it. Tom has made a great start and we are about to embark on a series of regional meetings to further explore how we can ‘Grow the game of Touch’.
Servicing our membership – all of you
My second priority is about our membership. The current climate we find ourselves in has not helped, but we need to continue to develop and deliver a membership package that everyone who plays touch wants to be part of and can realise the value. We need to better understand why people play, referee, coach, spectate. How do we engage with more of them? What benefits, products and services can we offer? How do we best communicate to our elite players, referees, coaches, club officials, social players and so on? We have started this piece of work and hope to make progress during this continued period of lockdown.
Recognising and rewarding our workforce – all of them
Thirdly, we need to focus on our workforce – all of them. We need to better engage, communicate and recognise those that give up so much time for our sport – both for England Touch directly, but also at their local clubs, leagues, universities and other playing environments. We need to support our workforce and help develop their skills to grow and evolve in the roles they perform.
We also need to continue to work closely with the Board of England Touch. During the last six months, there has been a lot of work behind the scenes by and with the board and senior leadership team, particularly around making us more robust and ensuring our governance is of the highest standard. We have an excellent board and leadership group, all of whom are fully engaged and behind our strategy and business plan.
Re-introducing an events offer
Fourth, we must use this time to plan effectively for when lockdown improves – what can be done this year and what should we try and incorporate into next year. We need to maintain as much flexibility as possible and consider all options. Our current thinking includes:
- providing participation opportunities as far and wide as possible, engaging as many members (and potential members) as we can;
- consider a more local, community level approach – individual fixtures and local competition is likely to be the first to return for us;
- exploring and delivering a revised autumn offer for England Touch and consider what we can do over the winter months;
- planning and implementing growth strategies for next year, ensuring we make the most of missed opportunities from 2020 (e.g.: The Euros) and realise those already planned for 2021 (e.g.: The Youth Touch World Cup)
Making us more commercial
The fifth area is commercial, one which I know will be at the front of people’s minds. I regularly get asked the questions - why can’t we get sponsorship? Why doesn’t anyone invest in touch? It is not quite that easy. We have developed an initial Commercial Strategy, the core of which is a review of what we do and identification of ways to generate additional income across the organisation. We had a plan in place for the Euros, but we have a much better opportunity now this has been postponed and will extend this work into the Youth Touch World Cup and other events, products and services next year.
In addition to these, we will continue to develop our strategies and plans across the organisation – in events, membership, marketing, performance, participation, refereeing, coaching and all other areas – we need to build three to five-year plans for all. We will also use this period to further develop our strategic relationships across sport, leisure and other relevant areas for touch.
Lastly, and not new to Covid 19, I would like us to improve the way we communicate and ensure we are more transparent across and with our membership. It has taken me too long to put pen to paper for this first update, but I promise that we will be back in touch much more regularly in the future.
If you have any questions, or would like to discuss anything further, please get in touch. In the meantime, please stay safe, listen to the advice and help provide support to those that need it most.