The Irish FA Foundation has launched a strategy document aimed at expanding and improving football at amateur level across Northern Ireland.
The Amateur Football Games Development Research and Plan Ahead document highlights areas for development over the coming years.
It also features the results of an extensive survey and questionnaire which were widely circulated among Northern Ireland’s amateur football clubs in a bid to get a complete picture of the amateur game in the country.
Using the association’s extensive database, the study provided an overview of the clubs, including their set-ups and community links, their needs and where they see development opportunities.
'The document shows the association’s commitment to the amateur game. We want to increase participation levels and the quality of the game at amateur level'
Dean Holmes, the Irish FA Foundation’s Amateur Football Game Developer, explained: “The plan is aimed at players, coaches, committee members and volunteers involved in amateur football, aged from eight to 80, who have a vested interest in football locally and nationally and are interested in its development.
“We also want to reach out to people who have played the game, have family who have played or people who have a football team in their area and have a vested interest in the game’s development.
“The document shows the association’s commitment to the amateur game. We want to increase participation levels and the quality of the game at amateur level.”
In the document the Irish FA Foundation reveals it is aiming to increase recreational opportunities for play and will be actively encouraging people to continue to play a role within their clubs.
“The amateur game is in great shape in its various forms across Northern Ireland, but with the help of the stakeholders we hope we can collectively take it to the next level by improving what is on offer for players, coaches and clubs,” said Dean.
A bespoke qualification for the amateur game is being developed by the foundation. It is aiming to roll out the National Coaching Certificate Amateur in the coming months.
Dean promised: “We will be working with leagues to meet their needs and improve the standard of all clubs, both recreational and developmental. We will do this by rolling out a series of league and club led pilot programmes which will lead to sustainable additions to the game.
“Importantly, we will be proactively improving our communication and ensuring the amateur game has a voice within the Irish FA.
”Irish FA Foundation chairman Jim Shaw pointed out the amateur game, in terms of teams and players, is the largest element of affiliated football within the Irish FA.
He said: “There are amateur clubs in every geographical area in Northern Ireland and they provide for local players to play the game for enjoyment and for many to develop to senior players in Northern Ireland, while others end up as professionals in England and Scotland and become senior international players.
“It is appropriate that the amateur game in Northern Ireland should be offered development support to enable it to retain its key position within the football hierarchy here.”
He explained the Amateur Football Games Development Research and Plan Ahead document has been developed through consultation with clubs and individuals throughout the amateur game in Northern Ireland and reflects areas for development and improvement.
And he added: “As the development programmes are made available I would encourage all eligible clubs to take advantage of the opportunities and ensure that the amateur game retains its key role in football in Northern Ireland.”
Image: Irish FA Foundation chairman Jim Shaw studies the strategy document aimed at improving football at amateur level across Northern Ireland