It’s been an interesting week for the sport of futsal as 250 of the sport’s most passionate people flocked down to St. George’s Park in Staffordshire for this year’s FA Futsal Conference.
This is a significant event in the futsal calendar as the event reveals elements of the future that the sport will bring in England and for the FA Futsal Super League, which is in place for first time this season.
This event featured demonstration work shops from none other than Futsal Euro winning coach Jorge Braz, of the recently crowned European champions Portugal, who spoke openly about what the Portuguese FA brings to the game of futsal and how our very own FA can understand and learn from what is going throughout the rest of Europe.
One of the attendees last Saturday was our very own Chairman Simon Wright, who spoke to ManchesterFutsal.com in reaction to the event and openly discussed this thoughts and feelings going forward for Manchester Futsal Club.
What's your reaction been to this weekend’s FA Futsal Conference at St Georges Park?
Firstly, and most importantly, I think it was great to have a dedicated FA Futsal Conference back in the calendar for the futsal community. We are clearly in a different place now since the first ‘Catalyst for Change’ event back in 2014 so this latest conference was an important platform to make a statement to all stakeholders that futsal is still clearly on the FA’s agenda going forward.
I think it’s clear many discussions have been taking place away from the public gaze to address the sport’s needs in England. We know that internal and external consultations with the community and the FA’s senior management have taken place so that is a positive first step. The futsal community (which despite growing is still relatively small) needs more time to engage and learn from one another. I always find a bigger wave of pro-activity happens when you have had a chance to be face to face, rather than existing in a social media bubble which can often generate negativity and misinformation.
Therefore, my overriding feeling throughout and reflecting on the event in the last few days was that it generated a great deal of positivity and willingness to now take more collective action to drive the sport forward in the coming years. Getting 250 passionate coaches, players, administrators and futsal leaders in a room together helps with this, but really the praise should go to the FA for putting together an engaging and insightful event.
I tried to sample a range of workshops to get a feel for the discussions taking place in different areas of the game. I particularly enjoyed the open insights that Jorge Braz (Portugal Head Coach) gave. His work ethic with his players and staff, long-term vision/planning and influence within the Portuguese Federation to develop futsal at all levels was hugely impressive. His ‘Team’ have delivered a European Championship title but he spoke also of the challenges and improvements he would like to see in Portuguese futsal going forward.
As a sport, how far do you think futsal has come in the past 12 months?
I think this really depends on what level of the game you are assessing. Those involved on a day to day basis on the ground, coaching, developing the sport will tell you that we are seeing even greater interest, more people playing and in general more opportunities being provided at all levels to get into futsal. This is hugely positive for the sport.
Of course, this is all very dependent on where you are based geographically, but if I relate this to Greater Manchester I think we continue to see youth futsal as the real catalyst at the minute. We have been working extremely hard to provide more opportunities for the young players involved at the club but also developing youth leagues and competitions which I think says a lot about us being leaders in futsal development – given our passion for the future of the game and engaging the next generation into the sport.
Hat’s off as well to the all the other futsal clubs, leagues and passionate coaches in the region for making this happen as well up and down the country, where we now must become more effective is in measuring this impact, this is where the FA and County Associations must now step forward.
As a club I think we have also made some positive developments in linking in with professional football clubs and their youth academy teams. This has generated some interesting discussions and our interaction with Manchester City has been great for our coaches and players alike.
As a Chairman of a futsal club, has your vision changed at all from where you want the club to be after this year's conference?
My attention, as it will be for many of the Club Chairmen that are leading clubs within the new FA Futsal Super League is what happens next with the top tier of English Futsal. This wasn’t a subject raised at St Georges Park at the weekend, but with the soon to be released FA Futsal Strategy we will hopefully begin to understand the FA’s thinking on this very important subject going into the 18/19 season.
We clearly must address this issue and make it the top priority, as a fully functional English Futsal League goes hand in hand with developing better players to represent the England National Team, which in turn should push us up the current UEFA and FIFA rankings. This comes down to the fact that we all want to see England doing well in the major futsal competitions in the coming years, and hopefully replicate some of the progress made by other nations.
Are there any new objectives that you hope the club can achieve because of the conference?
In all honesty I don’t think our objectives will really change because of some of the discussions that were taking place at the conference. We are building for the future with our teams and where possible, we always strive to support those clubs, teams, leagues and coaches that are now coming into the sport. On this level I think we clearly share the FA’s drive for the futsal community to become unified and more collaborative.
A significant amount of ground work has been done to support the club going forward as the sport evolves and moves in the direction we all hope it goes in England. Much of that is down to the passion and determination of the players, coaching staff and volunteers that we have in place at the club right now – they are driving this mission forward. We are all striving and dreaming together, as well as learning to raise standards in everything we do. For an amateur level club, I think that is impressive and puts us in a good place at this moment in time.
We are all looking forward to seeing the fruits of some of the changes that the FA wish to implement, and what the future hopefully holds for Manchester and the sport in general right now.