Pete Ackerley writes to all members after a year in his role and shares what it’s been like in this strange, strange year!
I am writing this from my home, where I have been largely based over the past few months. This is not exactly what I expected when taking on this role 12 months ago and before I go any further, I want to send my thoughts and best wishes to everyone who has been adversely affected by the pandemic. I also want to express my sincere thanks to all our essential workers, and particularly the NHS for all they do every day.
When I first joined BAFA a year ago, I saw an organisation with great potential and passion, and huge opportunities to grow the sport. I saw an exciting challenge ahead and a chance to build strong foundations for the future of our game. And despite the completely unprecedented events that have unfolded, I still see all of these things in British American football.
My initial aims on arrival were to put in place building blocks to create a high performing National Governing Body, establish strong partnerships with key stakeholders, good governance, a sustainable financial position for the organisation and create a long-term vision for British American football.
We have made significant progress on these aims despite the challenges we have all faced. BAFA has a strong and diverse board, with an effective governance structure to make good decisions. We have established important bodies to support our game, including the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, Science & Medicine Group and Athletes Commission. Valued partnerships are being developed with organisations like the NFL and BAFRA, and our alliance with the CFL is creating a clear pathway for British athletes to play the sport professionally.
We have also had recognition by Sport England and a funding agreement established to support us during initial COVID challenges, while we are working in partnership with DCMS to establish a Return to Play roadmap supported by Sport England, SportScotland and Sport Wales.
I believe this all represents a positive step forward for our organisation and sport, and is testament to the passion, knowledge and dedication of the people within our game. And of course, the hard work does not stop there! Over the coming months, there will be a focus on establishing a 10-year vision for British American football, with clear objectives and priorities alongside targets and performance indicators to show how we are progressing.
We will also have to continue adapting to this completely new world. The season cancellation was a massive disappointment for everyone. Yet the resilience of our sport is hugely encouraging, and we are building towards a sustainable future.
During the next 12 months, I will be focussed on developing four key priority areas for our sport:
Participation – ensuring we have an inclusive offer to create a culture of lifelong participation and establishing the best structure for American football to deliver growth in all formats.
People – building a strong, skilled, supported and valued volunteer workforce and the aim, in the medium term, to invest in professionalising the sport in all areas – particularly in the vital areas of coaching and refereeing.
Places – investing and supporting our clubs and teams to build sustainable communities of football, establishing high quality environments to play and perform.
Pathway to Performance – creating a long-term athlete development plan to ensure the right progression from the fundamental skills required to achieving GB selection and podium success.
Ultimately, I want us to make a difference to all areas of British American football.
I could not write this message without a heartfelt thank you to our volunteers – your commitment and passion are the lifeblood of the organisation, and the positive steps we have taken over the past 12 months are down to you. In these tough times, you see the best in people, and it has been phenomenal to witness how the football family has come together. We should never underestimate the power of football and the impact we can make beyond the game and the social impact we can deliver. In the words of the great Walter Payton: we are stronger together than we are alone.
We are all privileged to be part of this great sport and we should be proud of the difference we make to people and their communities. I am certainly proud and privileged to lead this organisation.
Action without vision just passes the time. Vision without action is just a dream. Vision with action can change the world.
Pete Ackerley, BAFA Chief Executive
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