Huddersfield Town Women’s chair Alison Bamforth attended the Football Association’s Clubs of the Future conference at St George’s Park, the home of the FA.
It was the first time the conference had been held and it was attended by club officials from the men’s and women’s game.
With the afterglow of the Lionesses’ success in the summer and the England men’s team currently playing in the World Cup in Qatar, Alison is pleased to see the FA looking to improve English Football as a whole and was delighted to attend the interesting and informative weekend.
She said: “The conference was at St George’s Park, the home of England’s football teams and FA Education. It’s a fantastic venue with facilities we can only dream of at HTWFC.
“The event was the first Clubs of the Future conference, and I felt it was important to attend to represent our club on a national stage, and also to make sure we have all the latest tools and information to enable us to ensure HTWFC continues to thrive.
“After the Covid-affected years, this face-to-face event also provided a welcome opportunity to get a chance to meet and chat to other like-minded volunteers from clubs up and down the country, share knowledge, experiences, challenges and successes and generally remind each other why we do this.
“The timing of the event was literally hours before the FIFA World Cup kicked off and following a summer of international success for the Lionesses at the UEFA Women’s Euros, I felt it was an opportune moment to be there. There were several renditions of ‘Sweet Caroline’ throughout the weekend too!”
After a busy first day, the second day was just as full on and Alison said: “The second day consisted of a range of workshops on off-pitch topics from the cost-of-living crisis to club structure, finance, facilities and workforce/volunteers led by a variety of FA staff and consultants, all of whom have a wealth of experience as players, managers or club leaders themselves.
“Most of the topics also included real-life, recent case studies told by the clubs themselves, which not only made these things seem much more achievable and realistic, but also meant that you could ask questions to the people that really know what they are talking about.”
On what she took away from the conference, Alison added: “There are opportunities for both short and long-term positive effects on HTWFC.
“I drove home after the second day finished with a brain full of ideas for potential quick wins, and our club has also been approved for some funded consultation hours with an FA expert to help us explore potential avenues for growth already. I’ve also got a long list of new contacts who are all keen to keep in touch to help each other’s clubs succeed.
“These conferences are vitally important, not least to remind people like me that many clubs face similar challenges to us, and could benefit from our experiences, and also that change is possible but takes time.
“It’s incredibly motivating and inspiring to hear the innovative ways in which others have achieved all sorts of little wins which have helped their clubs grow.
“This conference was also important because it was aimed at all clubs, not just those with women’s teams. It was great to see that content was billed as for both NLS and WNL, although it was noticeable that the vast majority of attendees were male and from male clubs and leagues.
“However, actually being pretty much the only short, Northern woman there did seem to have the advantage of making me memorable to the FA staff haha!
“It was also positive that many of the club representatives that I spoke to were planning to extend their club offering to include female teams, so it was great to be able to share my experiences and some of the knowledge I’ve gained from speaking to our players.”
While the conference was a huge success, Alison did hear some opinions rooted in the past which showed how much further the women’s game still needs to go.
She said: “I did hear one or two outdated opinions of making pitches smaller or games shorter for the girls, and about boys’ team coaches who are still not convinced about the women’s game.
“I suggested that they all come to watch any of HTWFC’s teams in action, and we will soon change their minds!”