New Northumberland FA Chief Executive Officer John Ackerley is hoping to give non-league clubs in the area a greater say in how the game is shaped in the future.
Ackerley was appointed in February and immediately set out his plans and targets for the future of the game in an area well-known for its passion for the game.
One of his primary objectives is to ensure that non-league clubs affiliated to the association are given greater support.
And he revealed that, to help them achieve that target, they would be restructuring internally to allow people from every level of the game to have a say in how things move forward in Northumberland.
“We have a good amount of clubs at non-league level, with eighty plus clubs at that level of the game.
“I want them to feel supported by us. It is important that we give them a voice, to give us their views so that we know what the clubs and leagues want from us in terms of support from ourselves.
“At some point we will be setting up some customer groups to engage with all of our stakeholders across the game to get their views.
“I would like our non-league clubs to be part of that.
“So we have a structure here, with a board of directors, we have a council and we are looking at reforming our council to allow us to represent every section of the game across the county.
“That is a huge positive that will give every area of the game a chance to have a say in how we shape the game going forwards”
Ackerley, who has over seventeen years experience working in leadership in the sports sector, admitted that he was excited about his new role, working in what he called “a hotbed of football”.
But he hopes that the impact his ideas have will go far beyond Northumberland
“That is one of the things that excites me about coming into the county. It is a hotbed of football.
“Football is the number one sport in the area and in the region by far.
“On a national level we commit to deliver on behalf of the FA.
It has been a tough couple of years for the Northumberland FA.
In 2014 the association was rocked by a sexism row involving vice-president John Cummings.
Cummings was alleged to have made sexist comments towards female official Lucy May, fiancé of Premier League referee Michael Oliver(pictured left).
The incident led to Oliver standing down as head of the Northumberland Football Association’s referee academy, a move instigated by the association handing Cummings a £250 fine and a four month ban from all football activities.
It was believed that five other senior officials stepped down after what was seen as a light punishment.
In November of the same year, Cummings was dismissed from his role after local and national criticism of the association’s handling of the incident.
Now Ackerley is hoping that his appointment will allow the NFA to move on from the row and improve its profile within the game.
“I don’t want to say too much about that if I am honest. What I want to focus on is the future and I have come in, that gives this association with a clean slate.
“What has gone on in the past, has gone on is the past. We have got some work to do in terms of our image and our profile and that is what I hope to achieve.
“Anything like that creates a perception amongst the stakeholders in the game. I wasn’t here, I don’t know the truth around the story and I don’t think other people know the truth but they form a perception.
“That perception is important because it creates an image of how people see us as an organisation and clearly we have some work to do around creating a better perception, an improved perception.”
“We will improve from an equality point of view. We have committed to achieving the equality standard, an award that the FA encourages every county association to achieve.
“We will have an equality advisory group within the FA too so I am putting things in place to improve our position and our profile in relation to equality. We must move on”
The growth of women’s football has been one of the success stories in English football in
the past year.
Inspired by England’s success at the World Cup in Canada last year, and the rise in popularity of the Women’s Super League, participation in the sport is on the rise.
That is no different in Northumberland and Ackerley revealed that the NFA have committed to achieving targets to play their part in the Football Association’s ambition to double the amount of females participating in the game.
“We are in a good position, with a really strong base in youth football and we have seven women’s teams, we would like more.
The FA have a huge ambition in their national strategy to double the amount of participation and obviously we are part of that. We hold a small part of delivering that on a national level here in Northumberland.
We have some strong plans in place over the next four years up to 2019. We have committed to a set of targets that will help us grow the women’s game and help us contribute to the national game in the overall picture.
We have dedicated staff around the girls and women’s game and they will be given the chance to help players grow the game and enjoy a fantastic experience”
Interview: Mark Carruthers