An Open Letter from our CEO

An open letter from our CEO, Chris French.

Our CEO, Chris French, has written an open letter to the Devon Football Family on the past 12 months at Devon FA.

On the 1st April, I personally celebrated a year since I was appointed CEO of the Association, a position I am very proud to hold. The last twelve months have seen a number of changes at Devon County FA and is the start of an enhanced approach to the way we serve and support our Devon Football Family. In my first open letter to you all, I aim to reflect on the developments of the previous twelve months and provide a glimpse into the changes implemented thus far, as well as the forthcoming improvements.

The immediate focus when appointed was to complete an internal workforce review to create a structure that we feel would better serve our Devon Football Family and deliver our emerging business strategy. This saw Matt Hodgson promoted to Football Development Manager and we are currently in the process of internally recruiting a Senior Football Development Officer. In October, we welcomed Tatiana Musialska, Joe Tyrrell, Paul Sharples and Alexei Nicholas to the team and all have been great additions to our executive workforce. More recently, we have created a new Business Operations department which will be headed up by Dawn Rainbow in her new role of Business Operations Officer. Alongside these staff changes we have also made the decision to extend our opening hours as part of our ongoing commitment to customer satisfaction and convenience.

In October, we were delighted to officially announce David Fursdon, His Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Devon, as our inaugural Patron of the Association. The Lord Lieutenant officially opened our 3G facility at Coach Road in 2022 and since then has been working with the Association on understanding the role of the County FA and our Devon Football Family. This new position within the County FA will support us to engage with new stakeholders and discuss strategic priorities both on and off the pitch.

Since the turn of the year, we have been in the process of appointing three new Independent Non-Executive Directors for People, Business Development and Marketing & PR. These new roles were developed following a skills audit of the current Board of Directors and reviewing our future strategic priorities. I was personally overwhelmed by the high standard of applications we received no and following a robust recruitment process I am excited to welcome, Donna Burns, James Greenacre and Daniel Cole to the Board. Alongside our three new Directors we have also co-opted Chris Broadbent on to our Board as our new Sustainability Champion and support the County in this area of work.These appointments highlight the intent we have as an Association to make significant positive change over the next 10 years.

2024 sees our latest Council Election year and following discussions with our current Councillors we have published a new Council Member application pack. This new document aims to provide a new perspective on joining the Association and a professionalism to our Council. Our nomination window closes at the end of April and I’m looking forward to working with our new Councillors over the next three years.

These past twelve months have seen the County FA awarded a number of kite marks and awards and this is an area where we will be striving to get Devon Football recognised, both locally and nationally. Back in 2023 we were awarded the Preliminary Level of the Equality in Sport Framework. This area of work and award was down to the hard work of our Inclusion Advisory Group and Football Development Officer, Ashley Harris. We quickly followed this award by being the 10th County FA to be awarded the FA Code of Governance and now we are in the final stages of submitting our application to The FA for version 2.1 of the Code. Our latest industry standard has only just been announced, seeing us become the first County FA to be awarded Investors in People award to their Silver standard. These three awards were identified as strategic priorities for the Association in our 2021 to 2024 business strategy.

Alongside these awards, we successfully passed our latest Safeguarding 365 assessment by The NSPCC. I was delighted to read our report which highlighted how everyone across the grassroots game in Devon have embedded safeguarding into grassroots football in the County.

A key priority of our emerging strategy will be rewarding and recognising the great work and devotion of our Devon Football Family, who are the heart beat of grassroots football across the County. Our new Weekly Shout Out has given everyone the platform to highlight individuals or organisations who deserve to be in the spotlight for the work they carry out. Everyone has a story and it has been wonderful to read about all our nominees of the Shout Out. In October, we had our first awards evening since the pandemic, the newly named Devon Football Family Awards, which were hosted at the Forge in Winslade Park. It was an excellent evening to celebrate some of our volunteers across the game. Planning is well underway for the 2024 awards evening taking place in June.

Many of you will be aware of our Your Game, Your Voice, Your Views roadshow’s and survey which have been taking place since the turn of the year. Alongside The FA’s Conversation with our Game, this is the largest engagement we have undertaken with the grassroots community since 2021 and we all enjoyed listening to the many views and opinions which were shared.

This informative and insightful work will help develop our new collective long term vision for grassroots football in the County and our 2024-2028 strategy. I must stress that this will be a vision and strategy for everyone in the game and to be successful, it will involve all stakeholders coming together and working as a team. We all have a common purpose of doing what is best for the game and we can all play our own part to Enhance Lives Through Football.

It is clear from our Your Game, Your Voice, Your Views work that as a County FA we need to engage, talk and listen more to the Devon Football Family and, I promise you, WE WILL. Firstly our roadshows will now be an annual event, WE WILL visit each area of Devon at least once a year to listen to you.

Over the coming months we will be developing a new communications plan which we look forward to implementing. Later this year we will also be launching a new customer service platform which will provide our grassroots community a 24/7 approach to dealing with your enquiries and questions. More on all this will follow very shortly!

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, I believe passionately in the positive impact football can have in e veryone’s lives and we have an amazing Devon Football Family who every day work tirelessly across the County.

Thank you!

Chris French
Chief Executive Officer