Its been a few months now since the Clubs shock resignation from the FA Futsal Super League and now that the storm the news created has passed we as a Club are really looking forward to our relaunch in the new year.
I’ve had lots of messages from people asking what is going on and how they can get involved, which is really great news and shows that people in Carlisle have a real passion for the sport. This is the fuel that drove the Club to where it was back in September and will be the fuel that takes us on our future journey.
Where that journey will end is anyone’s guess at this moment in time. As a Club we would like to think that in 10-15 years the players we are creating via our academy will have the opportunity to go on and represent their country whilst playing the sport professionally – in England. But there is huge cause for concern for the future of the game at the moment.
The FA, who govern the sport, appear to have shifted all of their priority towards funding new Football facilities. This is great thing for Football and something which I personally, as a huge football fan, fully support as we need as many facilities as we can get. We cant argue that it is the FAs prerogative to set out a plan and deliver it in line with what their mass market wants – National Football success.
The concern for Futsal fanatics is that there is no mention of Futsal in the FAs development plan, not even as a development tool for young footballers. All Futsal admin staff left their roles in the summer and the key Futsal staff who have achieved so much in pushing the sport to where it is have now gone too. This leaves a huge question mark over what happens when the FA National League funding runs out in 2017 and the future of the game here. How do Clubs like ours plan for the future?
The picture now is in stark contrast to the one painted in 2014 when we originally applied for the FA National League, TV deals and commercial sponsors cited as being in place ready to take well run Clubs to the professional level. That was the carrot for Clubs like ours and now that has gone it takes the FA National Futsal League back to nothing more than a well branded recreational 5-a-side league. The game will be back as it was in 2005 in a very short time frame if we are not careful.
There is an acknowledgement in the Futsal community that we can not let this happen, that leaders need to step up and make a difference. We will do our part as a Club to secure the sports future, I will play my part personally, whatever is needed.
Ive also been asked by lots of people why we resigned from the Super League in such dramatic fashion.
In response there are quite a few reasons but the main one is that we as a Club were unable to attract the number of players we needed to compete at the level we were aiming for. We had a philosophy of ‘build it and they will come’. And we had achieved the build it part, I don’t think anyone can argue with that. The players playing for us had everything at their disposal – two top coaches to work with, training twice a week, a physio at every session, it cost them nothing, the Club covered all costs. They were playing against the best in the country in the top flight and so were able to learn from the best. They had everything they needed to learn and develop into a top Futsal team over the next 3 seasons. All that was required was for them to train twice a week as often as possible and make themselves available to compete if selected. Despite this we still couldn’t get the players we needed. We had a core of really great lads involved but their just weren’t enough of them. Too many of those that we approached wanted to play amateur football instead, which again is fine, the draw of Futsal just wasn’t big enough. We offered them the chance of playing in front of sell out crowds and a pathway to represent their country but it wasn’t enough. I could also see that there were changes happening at the FA and a conversation I had in July gave me huge cause for concern. We have seen with recent events that the concern was justified. How do we attract the best players into the sport when the carrot of turning semi pro or even pro disappears? National League Futsal cant even compete with local non league football at this moment in time which should not be the case. This coupled with a change in my own circumstances meant that the time that had gone into solving the problems attracting players was no longer available. In an emerging sport like Futsal which is ran by a few dedicated, passionate and committed volunteers there is always a risk this can happen, no matter how well you structure a Club. The timing of all this played a huge part in the decision, no doubt about that. To continue and do half a job would have put all of our academy programme at risk and the future of the Club.
So making this decision was very difficult but when faced with the option of damaging the National League image temporarily or letting down 100+ local academy players and damaging the long term future of Futsal in Cumbria there was only one real option. I dare say our withdrawal from the league has really done very little damage really anyway, there are much bigger problems than our withdrawal to address to get the sport to where it deserves and has to be. Until those issues are addressed and a future strategy for the sport of Futsal is put in place, one which is fully backed by its governing body the risk of other Clubs making the same decision I have had to make will always be there.
People have also asked whether CFC will make a swift return to the FA National Futsal Leagues.
The answer is no. If Carlisle Futsal Club applies for the National League again it will be when we have prepared a generation of young players passionate about Futsal that can compete at that level. Our failure to last the season stems from an inability to attract the players we need to compete at the top level. We could have competed in the second tier and there were a few in our Club who wanted to do that prior to our Super League application but that’s not what this Club was about. We wanted to test ourselves against the best and found out quickly we couldn’t attract the players to do that. The saving grace is that we didnt waste 2 or 3 seasons trying to get out of division 2 to find that out.
There are much bigger issues that need to be addressed as well to secure the sports future. The number of indoor facilities suitable for National League Futsal in terms of size and holding spectators would need to change. We had 1 suitable venue in a 50 mile radius which was flooded recently! Another big problem is the negative attitude towards Futsal from many in the Football community. Although the attitude is gradually changing it will take a huge effort from the FA on coach education and from Clubs like ours to make the real difference. My guess is 90% of the population see Futsal as just another type of the many variations of recreational small sided football out there. Education is the only answer to this and that will affect a gradual culture change, it will take 20 or 30 years. We are already seeing this in part with the FA selling Futsal as a development tool for football. I have fought battles on these two fronts in the Clubs 3 years existence and they are big problems that will ultimately restrict the growth of the sport in the long term if not addressed fully.
And finally what does the new CFC look like? Well we are relaunching 3 academy teams in January. Players involved have been sent invites and all have accepted which is great news. We will push our coach ed programme out and aim to grow our pool of Futsal coaches. Frank Chiarella and Steve Chatila have both offered their services on this front which is further evidence that the Futsal community is extraordinary, it is full of fantastic, dedicated and passionate people who want to make a difference. Further teams and classes will launch as and when our new coaches are ready. It will be an exciting 2016 and one which I am really looking forward to.
Have a great Christmas.