The Irish FA Foundation is aiming to grow girls’ and women’s football, boost club and volunteer development through the creation of regional hubs and bolster its outreach work in 2019.
Michael Boyd, the Irish FA’s Director of Football Development, revealed the foundation has numerous goals for the year ahead as it serves the community through football and uses the transformative power of the sport to promote social good.
In the springtime it will be rolling out a comprehensive new plan to grow the women’s game in Northern Ireland, from boosting participation among young players to elite player development. It also wants to strengthen women’s clubs and their volunteer base.
On the wider club and volunteer development front the Irish FA’s charitable arm is aiming to roll out 12 regional hubs across Northern Ireland – two in Belfast and 10 in the council areas outside Belfast.
These will provide a greater focus on club/volunteer development and on boosting participation levels in line with the Irish FA’s Let Them Play youth football strategy, which aims to have 75,000 young people playing football regularly by the end of 2020.
“It’s all about providing a better service, supporting stronger inclusive clubs and creating more partnerships on the ground in the various council areas,” Boyd explained.
Other goals this year include bolstering safeguarding, introducing life skills training that empowers young people outside of education or employment and establishing closer links with schools both on and off the pitch.
In addition the foundation is aiming to launch a new development plan for the amateur game in Northern Ireland. It’s the first time a plan like this has been developed for the amateur and recreational adult game and it’s aimed at boosting participation levels.
A major consultation last year found clubs wanted more help with mental health awareness and as a result the foundation is aiming to run 40 of its successful Ahead Of The Game mental health awareness workshops across Northern Ireland over the next 12 months with 100 grassroots clubs benefitting. The workshops are staged in conjunction with Inspire, TAMHI (Tackling Awareness of Mental Health Issues) and Train2BSmart.
The Irish FA Foundation is central to the association’s mission to help promote, foster and develop football for all in Northern Ireland. The foundation team will continue to deliver football for all across Northern Ireland, making the game more fun, safe and inclusive.
During 2019 there will also be a focus on disability football, including powerchair football, along with veterans football through the Back In The Game initiative, small-sided games for more than 12,000 young players, and the Stay Onside programme which works with NEETS/disadvantaged young people and young offenders.
More engagement with schools is on the agenda, too. The foundation is aiming to boost participation levels in schools and to encourage more schools to undertake the Schools Quality Mark accreditation programme. In addition it is planning to work with post-primary schools in Lisburn and Belfast to offer BTEC courses in football development.
“We now serve around 75,000 people on a regular basis through our Foundation participation, community, health and education programmes, and we are aiming to increase that number with our partners” the Director of Football Development added.