Culcheth Athletic

Culcheth Athletic FC plays a vital role in their local community, providing young players with a safe and enjoyable environment in which to play the game. Football Focus magazine recently caught up with their Chairman Phil Gaskell to find out more about the good work that they’ve been doing lately.

Involvement

He told us, “I’ve been Chairman of the club now for five years. My eldest child started with the Academy seven years ago; he’s now going to U12’s next season. I’m the sort of person that likes to roll my sleeves up and get involved. When the Chairman position became available I volunteered my name, naively thinking there would be a long queue of people wanting the position, and low-and-behold I got voted into the job. I was the only person who volunteered!”

Modernisation

“When I first took over I was very aware the club needed modernising. Subscriptions were collected by standing orders, which meant changing them or auditing them was a huge job, and the banking was all done using a cheque book.

I set about introducing online registrations, direct debit systems, and brought in internet banking. There are still modernisations needed and it’s sometimes challenging to get the less technically able members to adopt them, and a very small number of people seem to actively try to avoid paying their membership fees. Thankfully there’s no longer anywhere to hide in our online system!

Running the club like a business (as it wasn’t run like that before I took over) and beginning to recruit volunteers with similar backgrounds in business has given me a huge confidence boost that we can grow the club further and begin to invest in modern facilities for the kids. We can build something bigger that will tighten the bonds between the teams and the community as a whole.”

Atmosphere

“I would say this depends on who you speak with. Some of the team’s coaches are having a well-earned rest now the season has finished. Others are gearing up for tournaments, so are a little nervous. As a whole I think the mood with the younger small-sided teams is fantastic; this represents about two thirds of the club.

At the upper levels of 11v11 there’s tension. Some coaches are finding it difficult to commit and so the teams may end up folding if we can’t find replacements, others are beginning to distance themselves for reasons that haven’t been made clear to me.

It’s a shame really as the club’s strengths lie in behaving like a club and not a set of 24 disparate teams. It’s a team sport so I often find myself at a loss as to why teams of people don’t also behave like one big team under the club banner.”

Present

“We’ve done well considering the lack of volunteers we have. We fielded two new U7 teams from our Academy which is vital in maintaining the club’s size; we usually lose at least one or two teams at the top end of 11v11 so adding several small 5v5 teams each season is important. We also managed to retain a team that played U17 all season which hasn’t happened in a long time, so that was nice to see. Several teams won their respective competitive leagues, and we won some cups.

We have a 9v9 tournament happening on the 7th and 8th July so my focus has been on the organisation of that. Once that’s over we will have our presentation day for the Academy players, we also have some issues to resolve regarding our Charter Standard health check and ensuring all our volunteers hold the right qualifications, and no time to rest because the registrations for the 2018/19 season need  processing. Due to GDPR issues this year the main league our teams play in are switching their registrations to the FA’s Whole Game System (WGS) so every single child in our club needs entering onto that system accurately. Quite a task!”

Youth

“We’re a junior football club so youth football is our primary focus. We don’t often field teams beyond U16, sometimes U17. In the last couple of years we’ve forged ties with a local senior team, The Daten FC, and we’re slowly introducing processes that allow the players leaving at U16 or U17 to transition into an U18 and U21 team setup.

Things like going to training sessions, and switching their matching playing venue at U16. It’s never easy though, at that age players don’t always want to carry on playing. Higher education, socialising, and a variety of other temptations are there to distract them!”

Community

“We are absolutely a community club. It’s enshrined in our club’s constitution. We’re a community based, not-for-profit voluntary organisation with no paid positions. Our main source of players into our Academy comes from the various primary schools in the Culcheth area, and a very large number of our members and volunteers live in the area.”

Challenges

“We are a big club. Next season we expect to field 25 teams, have around 40 coaching staff, and over 350 kids. Yet only eight people run the club, and two of those only started late into last season. It’s just not enough to match the size and ambition of the club. So unless we are able to recruit more people to run things behind the scenes I fear we will start to see cracks appear, opportunities will be missed, and the club will falter. The worst case is we see a serious welfare issue occur.”

Ambitions

“Long term we want to build a 4G pitch on our home ground. This is a huge undertaking that needs to be split into phases as the costs are over a million pounds. Even with subsidies it’s too big an ask for a locally run non-profit organisation. After discussions with the FA and Sport England we are going to embark on our first phase and replace the existing shabby porta-cabins with more modern buildings.

We want to build changing rooms, showers, a cafe and a pavilion. We hope that building a more social space on our ground will begin to crystallise the club’s members and allow them to come together and mix as a club and not just a number of teams. Big plans with what I hope will be big outcomes!”

To view Issue 02 of Golf Club International Magazine, click here

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