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2021 a stellar year for England Touch

Heading into the final few weeks of 2021 England Touch’s management is now able to look back at a challenging yet superb year for the Association.

The return to a full roster of National Touch Series, Nationals and international competition has seen membership numbers rebound quickly from 2019, with individual membership up 76% from this time in 2020.

This might be expected, but what is more promising is that the membership is 12% up on this time in 2019, when we were at the end of what had then been the busiest ever year of domestic and international Touch in England.

The number of affiliated clubs has also grown rapidly, and the total of 106 is a 55% increase on 2019’s figure of 66.

Fifteen of those new clubs joined through the recent Regional Roadshows, with the remaining 25 recognising the value of an England Touch affiliation which includes public liability insurance and full support, insight and expertise for successfully managing the path through the pandemic and accommodating all the new people who have wanted to take up the sport.

In addition to the clubs, there are 16 affiliated league venues who run their own social and local competitions throughout the course of the year.

Thirty-five of the affiliated clubs entered the National Touch Series in 2021, playing a combined 743 matches across 15 days of competition in five different Series, and were covered by approx. 100 hours of live streaming. This does not include the University National Touch Series, which has expanded into northern and southern tournaments for the first time, and the Regional Roadshows, which had nearly 50 teams take part at the end of October.

The summer was capped off by an outstanding performance at the Federation of International Touch Autumn Series, when the England Opens teams completed a clean sweep over their counterparts from Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

From an organisational perspective, England Touch has established a good working relationship with the Rugby Football League, partnerships with a number of rugby league and rugby union clubs, coaching companies, and a charity partnership with the British Heart Foundation.

And the pool of referees and coaches has also grown, with 80 individuals taking the Level 1 referee course, 33 taking the Level 1 coaching course and 85 individuals attending courses dedicated to coaching within schools. Demand has also been there for upskilling, with 30 places booked on the Advanced Attack and 31 booked on the Advance Defence coaching courses, and 15 people progressing through the Level 2 coaching qualification.

England Touch Chair Mark Croston, who has recently been elected to the Federation of International Touch’s Board, says that the hard work undertaken during the various lockdowns in 2019 is now bearing fruit as the Association heads into a 2022 which will see a further expansion of opportunities for clubs and players to experience competition and England host the European Touch Championships once again.

“The lockdowns gave us an opportunity to reset, re-examine what we were doing and refresh ourselves as an organisation, and we’ve seen the impact of that at the end of the first full year of competition,” he commented.

“This has been driven by Chris Simon as our CEO and Sammie Phillips as National Development Officer, a fantastic events team of Aisling, Jack, Robin, Chris and Mitch, dedicated management group, and a group of High Performance coaches and staff led by Ben Powell which continues to set the highest standards.

“Even more importantly, we would not have seen this growth without everything volunteers contribute across the country, who set up and manage clubs, attract players, develop coaches and referees, and enter their teams into competitions.

“A massive thank you to everyone, on behalf of the ETA Board of Directors.

“Looking forward to 2022 we can expect even more, with structured opportunities to enter competition at a regional level, the National Touch Series going from strength to strength, more targeted partnerships, and hosting the Euros in August.

“The momentum is with us and the future is bright for Touch across England.”

In addition to being voted onto the new FIT Board, Croston has been asked to step into the position of FIT Chair, providing leadership to the organisation and to the sport globally.

“The sport in England and the support I have received from every region and sector of the Touch community has enabled me establish my knowledge and reputation with member nations,” Croston added. “It is of course a significant honour and responsibilitiy - and testament to the standing of England Touch globally.”

Croston’s current term of office with England Touch – his second – continues until next May, and both he and the ETA Board are excited about the future and the upcoming launch of the sport’s 2020s Vision.

“By the time we get to 2030 the sporting landscape will of course be quite different, and it is our responsibility to ensure we grow as a sport, along with our content, audience and our reach.

“That is all to come, but in the meantime may I wish everyone the best of health in these challenging times and hopefully an enjoyable festive season.”

Croston will be talking to FIT’s Adam Collins at 9am this Sunday (UK time) in the latest of the Set of 6 interviews.

We are England Touch

We are the players. We are the supporters, willing us on. We are the medals, waiting to be won. We are the touchdowns, waiting to be scored. We are the men and women of all ages. We are the talent of today. We are the potential for tomorrow. We are one team. We are England Touch