The Irish Football Association has published a new corporate strategy to guide its work over the next five years.
A Roadmap For Football – Irish FA Corporate Strategy 2022-27 covers all aspects and levels of the game across Northern Ireland, from improving performance and participation levels to improving facilities, generating revenue, engagement, women’s and girls’ football and corporate social responsibility.
The Association has made significant strides since qualification for the Euro 2016 Men’s Championships and has been to the fore in the development of the Women’s game securing qualification for this summer’s Women’s Euro’s taking place across England and to be televised live in full across the world.
This new strategy is divided across seven key pillars and has set more than 30 strategic objectives and over 100 individual actions to be met and implemented over the next five years.
The pillars focus on participation, performance, facilities, revenue, engagement, women’s and girls’ football plus corporate social responsibility and sustainability.
It is a well thought through and presented document and clearly draws on a well of goodwill from across the sport and from the social, government and business partnerships that have been formed and nurtured.
The most obvious and the most easily judged element of any sporting bodies strategy relates to performing strongly on the international stage, and the objective in this area is to challenge in every qualifying competition and to succeed in making it to Finals every other time.
Transforming the football pyramid in Northern Ireland to support ambitious clubs and increasing the number of players, coaches, officials and administrators involved in football features throughout the document, in order to provide the kind of bedrock that will make this possible.
Building an international class National Training and Development Centre is another goal as well as boosting facilities at all levels of the game, including improving playing surfaces used by teams at the top level.
The association is also aiming to generate revenues in excess of £100m over five years to reinvest in the game and to make the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park in Belfast a premium venue for conferences and other events.
This will involve maximising commercial partnerships, developing new retail strategies and doubling grant funding.
Other objectives include developing more partnerships and building excellent working relationships with Northern Ireland’s 11 councils and with the Northern Ireland Assembly plus boosting the women’s game at all levels and becoming a leading organisation when it comes to sustainability and championing equality, diversity and inclusion.
“This strategy is progressive and will require determined effort from everyone at the association supported by leagues, clubs and the entire football family,” said Irish Football Association Chair Stephen Martin.
“We want to grow the number of boys and girls playing football, introducing them to its positive health and social benefits, and to improve Northern Ireland’s stadia and the spectator experience.”
“Football in Northern Ireland has the ability to cross all divides,” added President Conrad Kirkwood.
“It has the power to be a tool to bring about great change. It can help educate, promote health and wellbeing, and give everyone an unparalleled sense of belonging. Most importantly football can promote inclusivity like no other sport.”
“The global Covid pandemic presented real challenges for each one of us. As we emerge from the worst of those challenges football – and the people with a passion for it – has a real opportunity to improve people’s lives. I hope that this strategy will be a roadmap to deliver those improvements.”
Social Return on Investment
Last year the impact of football on everyday life here was analysed via a Social Return on Investment Model (SROI) developed through UEFA’s GROW programme. And the research showed football has economic, social and health benefits that currently add up to £470m in Northern Ireland per annum.
Another objective outlined in the Irish FA’s new corporate strategy is to generate £3bn in SROI for the community over the five-year period.
“The vision, mission and values contained in this strategy will give us daily reminders of why we are here and what is expected of us,” said CEO Patrick Nelson.
Sport for Business Perspective
Sport can too often be about the short term needs of results and delivery. Taking the time to look to the further horizon is invaluable and that is exactly what the Irish FA has done in this document that is both ambitious and inclusive.
We look forward to following its progress over the next five years.