Oxfordshire FA

Your Questions Answered

Oxfordshire FA answered your questions and feedback on the day we celebrated our 140th anniversary.

Last month, Oxfordshire FA asked everyone to ask us any questions about local grassroots football, and suggestions for continuous improvement, to help us shape our new four-year strategic plan.

On 26 January 2024 those questions were answered live on the BBC Radio Oxford Friday Night Sports Show by new Oxfordshire FA Chair David Tutton, and Chief Executive Jonathan Duckworth. 

26 January 2024 was a significant date, as it marked the actual 140th anniversary of the founding of Oxfordshire FA.

“We are proud of our 140-year heritage and focused on ensuring a sustainable future for the growth of local football throughout the county,” explained David.

“2024 also signals 50 years since the current county boundaries were agreed, and we are encouraging The FA to finally bring our catchment area in line with that revision 50 years ago, so that we can ensure consistent and seamless football services and provision across the whole of Oxfordshire.”

Jonathan went on to outline the forthcoming work to forge Oxfordshire FA’s new strategic plan, as well as some of the exciting initiatives already underway.

“This summer we will be producing a new four-year strategy, which will build up to football coming home as we host UEFA EURO 2028,” he said. 

“We have already started some exciting work which will support our work over the coming years, including recruitment of a new Inclusion Football Officer, thanks to funding and support from partnerships with Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council. The aim of this collaborative work is to better engage with diverse local communities, to help more people become part of their local teams throughout the county.

“We have also opened up our prestigious County Cup finals to our local football clubs, which will see them host some of the season’s most prestigious fixtures. We’re looking forward to revealing details of those finals and venues soon.”

Take a look at the questions and answers below, as featured on BBC Radio Oxford on the 140th anniversary of Oxfordshire FA.

All of the leagues in our Oxfordshire boundaries should (will) be meeting on a regular basis with us from now on, not only to share knowledge, but to also support each other with key needs, whether they be playing facilities, England Football Accreditation, encouraging positive behaviour, inclusive referee recruitment and retention, getting more people playing, and ensuring the league’s Welfare Officers and club Welfare Officers are supported.

Florin makes a good point. Winter matches get cancelled due to flooding or frozen pitches, and player safety is paramount. However, February and March can sometimes bring the worst weather, so it’s very unpredictable. Many facilities, especially when run by local councils, want grass pitches free by May in order to allow them to recover for cricket. In addition, some clubs run their end-of-season tournaments in May and June; however, it is something each league can consider.

It is a real worry. Over the next four years of our new strategic plan, we want to see many more flexible places for people of all ages to play, especially in the areas of greatest need. We need the Local Authorities to help us work together with the Football Foundation on finding funding for more all-weather pitches, which can cost about £1M each. We’re also keen to see local leisure centres look at cheaper rates for sports halls and indoor facilities.

These are great points and ones we fully support, Steve. Our next Silent Weekend is on 2/3 March 2024, where everyone is asked to simply applaud rather than shout, to show their appreciation of good football by both sides in every match.

Some clubs already have respect marshals. We’d like to see all leagues and clubs promote greater consistency. Kids need to have fun playing football. Parents need to let the coach be the coach. The players do not need mixed messages, it only distracts and confuses them. It affects their focus and self-confidence and can put them off playing.

We’ve seen parents walking onto pitches during matches to tell their children to be more aggressive. We’ve seen parents – and even coaches – criticising every refereeing decision to other parents and their own players, and we’ve even seen 50-year-old parents physically threaten 15-year-old referees. Football is a passionate game and yet we are all there to encourage and support, not undermine or intimidate.

Consistently treating everyone with dignity and respect will be a key part of our new strategic plan, with better recognition for volunteers, promoting wholly-inclusive and encouraging environments, greater support for match officials, and firmer sanctions for bad behaviour.

We want to grow the game equally in all its forms. Football has the power to change lives, to bring people and communities together, to help everyone be active and healthy and have fun doing so as part of a team.

At Oxfordshire FA, we can only afford to employ eight people who work their socks off trying to look after 20,000 players involved in 1,300 teams and 200 local clubs.

We need more help, such as the way Isinglass Consulting have honoured the memory of local football legend Mickey Lewis through their sponsorship of our Under-15 Youth Cup.

We are open to more sponsors for our County Cup competitions. We’d love to hear from Oxfordshire companies that want to do more to help their local community and make a lasting positive difference to society. We have listened to feedback from our local clubs, and opened up the hosting of our County Cup finals to more venues. In addition, we’re working closely with our local clubs to strengthen player and coach development as we look to find the next generation of England players.