AS 2018 draws to a close, it is time to reflect on all that has been achieved at grassroots level across the county.
The past 12 months have included the following:
- Nearly £1,000,000 invested into Suffolk clubs through the Football Foundation
- Stowmarket Town reach the last 32 of the Buildbase FA Vase -a journey which continues on January 6th 2019
- The Rainbow Laces campaign embraced across Suffolk, promoting equality in the game
- The county employ their first Inclusive Football Development Officer
- 22 Wildcats Centres held across Suffolk
- 28 clubs successfully apply to the Suffolk FA Small Grants Scheme
- Mildenhall Town’s pitch is Highly Commended in The FA Groundsman of the Year Awards 2018
- Coplestonians and Stowupland Falcons awarded FA Charter Standard Community Status
- The CNet Training Senior Cup final streamed live on Facebook
In addition to the above, it has been a particularly busy and exciting year for Suffolk FA.
The county have supported two applications to the Football Foundation for new 3G facilities which are currently being built; work is scheduled to finish early in the New Year on the pavilion alongside Needham Market’s new 3G pitch, while construction is under way on a 3G pitch at Beccles Town.
Six of the 2017-18 County Cup Finals were staged at two Football League grounds – four at Ipswich Town plus two on the same day at Colchester United.
The county’s coach education programme has seen 16 Level One courses delivered with 280 candidates, two Level Two courses with 40 candidates and one Level Three (UEFA B) course with 23 candidates.
A total of six FA Referees’ Courses have been held over the course of the year, leading to 120 new referees and increasing the total number of officials in the county to 480.
In the past 12 months, Suffolk FA have also passed their inaugural external Safeguarding assessment, meaning the County FA are doing everything possible to ensure young people are experiencing the safest and most positive football environments possible.
Suffolk FA have also staged a series of successful annual events.
The two-day KBB Grassroots Festival, staged at Whitton United FC for the first time, was bathed in glorious sunshine and attracted more than 4,000 visitors.
Suffolk FA staff delivered or supported more than 50 events around the county during Love Football, Live Football Week sponsored by MH Goals Ltd in October.
Ipswich Town partnered with Suffolk FA for one of the highlights of the week, the visit by first-team player Jordan Roberts to Thomas Wolsey Ormiston Academy.
Staff also undertook a #LiveFootballChallenge to cycle non-stop for 24 hours to raise money for a local club to win defibrillator, which was won by Holbrook Hornets Youth FC.
The challenges faced in transitioning players from youth to adult football was the topic of discussion at the annual Suffolk FA Youth Conference at Ufford Park.
Referee George Byrne not only won the Suffolk FA Match Official of the Year, presented alongside other winners at an Awards Ceremony sponsored by McDonald’s and Ransomes Jacobsen staged at Portman Road, but also the national award in The FA and McDonald’s Grassroots Football Awards.
There was also a notable achievement on the national stage as Gym United from Bury St Edmunds became the first Suffolk side to reach the FA Sunday Cup Final, played at Bramall Lane.
Other individual international success stories included former Suffolk FA Under-18 goalkeeper Nick Pope’s call-up to the England World Cup squad and subsequent debut and Abi Marriott becoming the first female official from Suffolk to be accepted as an FIFA referee for 2019.
Suffolk FA Chief Executive Richard Neal said: “It has been a terrific year for football in Suffolk, and into the New Year we’ll continue to work to stabilise and develop the game in our county, particularly looking to address a decline in the number of adult male teams.
“We wish everyone involved in Suffolk football a prosperous 2019.”
Brantham Athletic Chairman Peter Crowhurst is pictured above proudly holding the FA Cup as the Suffolk side (blue shirts) walk onto the pitch ahead of their Second Qualifying Round tie - the furthest Brantham have ever got in the competition – versus National League South side Eastbourne Borough in September. The visitors won 1-0.