Secretary's Report - League Reports - Secretary's Report 2010/11
Secretary's Report 2010/11
On behalf of the Fermanagh & Western Football League I am pleased to present the League’s Annual Report for Season 2010/2011. The past twelve months have been marked by significant activity both on and off the pitch and in many ways will be seen as a seminal year for local Football.
Last July at our Annual General Meeting I spoke of the challenges facing local Football and highlighted areas that I perceived as being particularly crucial. I am happy to report that significant progress has been achieved in many of these areas and anticipate that further progression will be made in the months ahead.
The League has witnessed an eventful year with much excitement and the usual array of issues and challenges. It has been an unequivocally difficult but equally rewarding and productive season. The greatest problems have been the viability and vulnerability of Clubs and the abject weather that caused a plethora of blanket cancellations.
For the second successive Season Team numbers remained consistent with sixty-four Teams, representative of thirty-six Clubs, entering our various Competitions. The pre-Season demise of Drum United was not unexpected but no-one could have predicted the dramatic disintegration of Clabby Strollers. The subsequent withdrawals of Ederney and Ballygawley and the expulsion of Barrowfield for repeatedly playing unregistered Players further reduced the match programmes for Teams in Divisions 2 and 3. There is no doubt that some Clubs are struggling to survive financially, others struggling to field Teams and yet others struggling to retain their Volunteers.
If we thought that the adverse weather conditions of the previous year were bad the Winter of 2010/11 was the worst for many years. Five series of fixtures were completely lost while several others were severely decimated. By the end of February we had completed just over half of our League programme and a busy end of Season loomed. That we came through despite the inevitable fixtures backlog, and that complaints about fixtures rescheduling were kept to a minimum, says a great deal about our Clubs’ resilience. I can only applaud all concerned for their efforts.
A total of nine fixtures were not played and appropriate fines were imposed on those Teams that conceded walkovers to their opponents who were awarded the points for the fixtures and score-lines of 3-0 recorded in their favour.
Our Season Launch Function, which was held in Bawnacre Centre, Irvinestown in early August, set the scene for a landmark Season for the League both on and off the field. The Season was keenly contested across all Divisions and pride of place must go to Lisbellaw United who became only the third Club to complete the Mercer Cup and Pete Keane Memorial Cup “double” following the successes of Lisnaskea Rovers (2003/04) and Enniskillen Town United (2004/05, 2005/06 and 2008/09).
Congratulations to our six Champion Teams - Lisbellaw United, Strathroy Harps, Strabane Athletic, Lisbellaw United Reserves, Beragh Swifts Reserves and Spamount Swifts Reserves - on their achievements and to all those Teams that won promotion.
The Central Registration of Players eventually became a reality and caused difficulties for some Clubs that they themselves must sort out. Clubs must ensure 100% compliance with Registration Rules by ensuring that their Players are correctly registered within the permitted Timescales and Regulations.
Mercer Cup (Division 1) Before the season began most pundits were tipping Lisbellaw
United to retain their title and they certainly lived up to expectations by winning a second successive Mercer League Championship that was confirmed with a narrow 1-0 victory over Ballinamallard United Reserves in their penultimate fixture. James McGrath has instilled a winning mentality into his Drumad based side who were eventually to claim the title by an eight points margin after amassing a record total of fifty-seven points.
Runners-Up Enniskillen Town United were left to rue the loss of points to the bottom three Teams in the Division and their second spot might have suited a Team with less ambition.
In final few weeks of the campaign Ballinamallard United Reserves and Beragh Swifts were vying for the top spot but faltered as the pressure built during the run-in and had to settle for third and fourth places respectively. The latter’s final top four finish was most creditable and the challenge for them now is how to build from here.
With the talent they have available Tummery Athletic’s fifth place finish has to be looked on as something of an underachievement while Churchtown and Enniskillen Rangers, who comfortably survived their first Season back in the top flight, will be happy with their efforts.
Every year two sides face the ignominy of relegation and the battle to survive went to the wire. Fintona Swifts and Shelbourne almost became embroiled in that battle while Enniskillen Santos’ efforts at the end propelled them to safety. There was a surprise as Glebe United who had scaled the heights in 2009/10 plumbed the depths and they will join Irvinestown Wanderers, who ended up sixteen points from safety after winning only one game all season, in Division 2 next season.
Enda Love Cup (Division 2) The withdrawals of Clabby Strollers and Ballygawley, together with the expulsion of Barrowfield, resulted in a decimated fixtures programme.
Dergview Reserves set the pace and vied with Strathroy Harps for top spot throughout the Season. They dominated the Competition to such an extent that their combined total of eighty-fours points was only thirty-nine points less that the combined total of the remaining seven Teams. The Omagh based side edged the title by stretching their winning run to seven games by virtue of a narrow 2-1 Play-Off victory over their rivals that ended the Castlederg side’s remarkable sixteen games unbeaten run. It was a remarkable turnaround for Strathroy Harps who had fallen from grace in the previous Season.
Killen Rangers replicated their third position of the previous Season although they finished a massive fourteen points behind both promoted sides. Omagh Hospitals enjoyed a satisfactory return to Division 2 while Lisnaskea Rovers’ challenged faltered and eventually evaporated after a bright beginning.
NFC Kesh Reserves and Spamount Swifts both had indeterminate Seasons while Ardstraw Reserves and Mountjoy United Reserves were seldom out of the bottom two places.
Brendan Keogh Memorial Cup (Division 3) In one of the most intriguing promotion battles ever witnessed it was joy for Maguiresbridge and heartache for Strule United, Fivemiletown United II and Derrychara United as all four Teams vied for the second promotion place going into the final Saturday of the Season. The issue was not resolved until the final minutes of Maguiresbridge’s home fixture against Fivemiletown United II when a converted penalty kick enabled them to emerge 2-1 victors and ensure them of Division 2 football next Season.
Newcomers Strabane Athletic’s accomplishment in winning Division 3 was an exceptional achievement and they had a six points margin over Maguiresbridge. There was no doubting their title credentials despite an understandably tentative opening to their campaign during which they experienced their only defeat.
For Drumquin United, Lisnarick and Orchard Farm it was a Season to forget while Augher Stars finished in second bottom position for the second successive Season. Dunbreen Rovers had a disastrous campaign and the high hopes of the previous Season quickly disintegrated and they finished their campaign without a win.
Pete Keane Memorial Cup (Reserve Division 1) After several near misses Lisbellaw United Reserves were crowned Reserve Division 1 Champions for the very first time following their narrow 3-2 Play-Off victory over Killen Rangers Reserves. The Drumad based side deserve congratulations on becoming only the fifth ever recipient of the Pete Keane Memorial Cup since the Competition was established twelve Seasons ago.
Claiming third spot were Strathroy Harps Reserves although at no time did they ever look likely to be serious title contenders. For the third time the Champions of the two previous Seasons Enniskillen Town Reserves failed to make it a hat-trick of titles and they finished fourteen points behind the top two sides.
Enniskillen Santos Reserves will return to Reserve Division 2 after only one Season in the top flight and they will be joined by Churchtown Reserves whose sojourn in the highest echelons of Reserve Team Football lasted only one Season longer.
Robin Porter Memorial Cup (Reserve Division 2) Beragh Swifts Reserves always looked the likeliest side to clinch promotion and victory in their penultimate fixture clinched a first ever Reserve Division title.
Fintona Swifts Reserves exceeded their most optimistic aspirations and their Runners-Up position was a marked improved on their previous two Seasons when they finished in sixth and seventh positions respectively.
Irvinestown Wanderers Reserves suffered a second successive relegation while Dunbreen Rovers Reserves will make an immediate return to Reserve Division 3.
Patton Cup (Reserve Division 3) The foundation for Spamount Swifts Reserves’ achievement in winning a second Patton Cup came from a four games winning sequence at the start of the Season.
Orchard Farm Reserves were rarely out of the top two throughout the campaign and they will be playing in Reserve Division 2 for the first time next Season.
For the second successive Season Churchtown Colts and Mountjoy United III occupied the bottom two positions
Kennedy Cup The Annual Season Curtain Raiser between the previous Season’s Mercer League Champions (Lisbellaw United) and Mulhern Cup Winners (Strathroy Harps) was played at Michael Connolly Park, Kesh on Tuesday 17th August 2010 and won by the former following a dramatic penalty shoot-out.
The League is appreciative of the NFC Kesh Club which provided their facilities free of charge and the Match Officials who did not seek reimbursement for their services. These generous gestures enabled a donation of £600.00 to be made to the Clic Sargent Charity. Publicity in respect of this substantial donation has not been realised because of circumstances outwith the League’s control.
Once again the local Referees’ Association provided an outstanding service with Official Referees being appointed to all but eight of our fixtures last Season – a remarkable statistic and one that is undoubtedly the envy of all other Junior Leagues. I must again commend the efforts of the Association’s Chairman Basil Marshall who, in his role as Match Appointments Officer, ensured that only a small minority of our fixtures were played without an Official Referee.
The local Referees’ Association continues to play a vital role in recruitment, coaching and development of Referees. The importance of the recruitment initiatives cannot be underestimated as we must maintain sufficient numbers of referees to cover the demands of local Football. We need to persuade our Clubs to promote refereeing and supply new recruits into the system. Ultimately the Clubs must realise that it is essential for the future of the local Game that they are proactive in this respect. Refereeing needs to be high on the agenda of every Club.
Referee development remains a key focus and an integral part of our sport. Alongside recruitment there has been a concerted effort to improve the standard of refereeing through coaching and performance reviewing of Referees
There were eight Management Committee Meetings and numerous Sub-Committee Meetings held throughout the year - all attended by elected Office Bearers and Club
Delegates giving their skills and experience on a voluntary basis in their own free time.
The year saw several changes in the composition of the Management Committee whose Members were faced with challenging tasks and difficult decisions and I would like to express my unreserved appreciation to everyone who was involved during the past year. Most Members of the Management Committee have made a huge commitment in terms of time and energy to the League over the past twelve months but I am aware that that there are Members whose attendance records can be best described as abysmal. If work, family or other commitments regularly prevent a Delegate from attending Meetings then he / she should tender his / her resignation which would allow a successor to be appointed. An Attendance Register depicting the attendance records of all Office Bearers and Club Delegates is included at the end of this Report for your perusal.
I am also very aware that many Clubs have little or no knowledge of the administrative activities of the League. Clubs must be encouraged to contribute as it is only when one gets involved does one realise the pressure that is there and the quantum of the work done. It is important to make sure that those who are potentially the next generation of League Officials see what is involved thereby ensuring that the burden of running the League doesn’t fall on a small number of people.
You may be aware that during the course of my Annual Report at the League’s Annual General Meeting on Thursday 1st July 2010, I advocated that the League needed to implement a complete overhaul of its archaic Rules. Consequently I consulted with all of our Member Clubs in mid-November and sought their views / recommendations on any additions / alterations to the League’s Rules that they deemed appropriate. It is disappointing to report that only two Clubs Ballinamallard United Reserves and Dunbreen Rovers, together with Treasurer Gordon Lee, Registrar Rory Lynch and myself, made recommendations which were considered by the Rules Revision before being submitted to the Extra-Ordinary General Meeting which was held on Wednesday 14th may 2100.
I have also consulted with the Secretaries of all IFA Affiliated Leagues and requested a copy of their Leagues’ Rules. To date I have received Rules from five Leagues and they will form an integral part of the comprehensive review of our Rules.
It is regrettable that negative comments are forthcoming on perceived issues relating to our League that in my view are frankly not sustainable. There currently exists a lobby that proclaim that a gulf exists between the League and its Member Clubs from Tyrone who have been “discriminated” against in the past because of their background. Absolute balderdash! This same lobby proclaims that there is an imbalance in the make-up of the League’s Officers, its Management Committee and its Sub-Committees. I have always subscribed to the theory that the best people available should be appointed to positions of authority. If that results in the appointment of an Officership comprised entirely of Administrators from Fermanagh (or Tyrone) then so be it. Recently proposals from Dunbreen Rovers which attempted to copper fasten this perceived divide were summarily rejected by the Rules Revision Committee and the Omagh based Club inexplicably declined to have them subsequently debated at the ensuing Extra-Ordinary General Meeting.
Financially the Fermanagh & Western is in a stable condition. Treasurer Gordon Lee will report a profit of £4,374.80 on the Season’s activities. Income for the Season totalled £29,974.50 – an increase of £4,187.50 while expenditure amounted to £25,599.70 – a decrease of £4,164.45 on the previous Season.
Increased revenue from Registration Fees has contributed to this much improved financial position while significant savings have been effected where appropriate.
The current economic climate remains challenging and we as an Organisation are not immune to the uncertainties of the UK economy which has significantly impacted on the League with the loss, during the current Season, of our long-standing sponsor The Fort Lodge Hotel. I would like to offer my appreciation to the Sheerin Family for their generous support since Season 1990/91.
Sponsorship is vital to the viability of Football Leagues and it is a matter of concern that our efforts to secure sponsorship and funding for the League have dried up. There is scope for significant increase in that revenue source although finding new Sponsors in the present economic climate will prove difficult.
Terry Patterson, in his weekly column in The Ulster Herald, has over the years conducted a concerted campaign against the payment of honoraria to Officers of the League. I would remind Mr Patterson that Rule 7(a) of the League’s Rules unequivocally states that the Finance Committee shall authorise the payment of honoraria as deemed appropriate and that these appropriate payments are routinely endorsed by our Member Clubs at Annual General Meetings every year. I do not ever recall any dissenting voices and the payments made are, in my opinion, an inadequate recompense for the value of the services provided although Mr Patterson might deem otherwise!
It is a matter of some concern that a “reader” of his recent column entitled “Scenario for Tyrone clubs to set F&W agenda, if they shake themselves!”, anonymously penned a letter to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, which accused the League Committee of “allocating the funds gathered from the junior teams who play in their leagues by way of fines etc to their own bank accounts”. A totally ridiculous accusation and one that sought to defame and disdain. A suitable rejoinder will be issued in due course.
There is great interest in what happens in the Fermanagh & Western Football League even though crowd numbers on the touchlines at the various venues on Saturday afternoons might tell you otherwise. Many people are unable to attend our games and rely on accurate and reliable match reports in the local press which has an obligation to ensure that their match reports (and associated articles) are accurate, factual and not misleading. It is a concern that match reports have, on occasions during the course of the past Season, contained deliberate inaccuracies and misinformation. I would
commend and congratulate The Herald Group for their pre-Season Preview and am pleased to observe that the coverage of our games has considerably broadened and increased. Maybe the comments contained in my Annual Report last year, in which I commented on the inadequate coverage of our games, “hit the spot”.
The Bawnacre Results Service once again provided an excellent service to our Member Clubs and we are indebted to George Beacom and his willing band of volunteers for their herculean efforts on Saturday afternoons during the Season.
The proposed revamp of the website www.fermanaghnadwestern.com will offer even greater scope to promote ourselves and will significantly benefit our Clubs by providing more up-to-date and diverse information. It will present Fermanagh & Western Football in a way that is accessible to everyone.
We are continually evolving and as a consequence it is imperative that we review our structures on an ongoing basis to ensure that our Competitions are meeting the needs of our Clubs. During the Season we engaged in consultation with Clubs about the establishment of Leagues at Intermediate and Under-18 level - unfortunately the formation of a Masters (Veterans) Division has not yet reached consultation stage.
The concept of a local Intermediate League is not a new one but maybe it is a concept whose time has now come. However Clubs should be wary of a vociferous minority who would seem keen to have us all join an Intermediate League in a lemming like rush.
One of the key difficulties facing local Football is player retention in the sixteen to eighteen year old age group. The Youth Sector is one of rich potential and we are indebted to George Elliott (Lisnaskea Rovers) for his initiative in promoting debate on the matter.
Lateral and inventive thinking will be required by all in the game to come up with Competition structures and timings that will not impinge on current practices. Whatever structures do finally evolve they should not have an effect on our determination to maintain the standards we have set ourselves.
Chairman Sammy McFrederick and myself attended a Stakeholder Event for the Irish Football Association’s Club Education and Development Programme that was held in the Ballymena Showgrounds on 24th March 2011. Funding of £100,000.00 has been secured which will ensure that the Programme will be free to Clubs for its first two years. The Programme will enable Clubs to be more aware of opportunities for financial assistance and to become more efficient in the way that they are run and developed.
More than ninety patrons attended the League’s Inaugural Awards Dinner that was held in The Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen on Saturday 4th June 2011. The evening was a success even though many Clubs disappointingly chose to absent themselves from the Function. Whether we like it or not if the League is to have an Annual Awards Dinner it will be expensive and the work required to cajole Clubs to attend will be huge. Our choice of venues is limited and we will need to consider carefully whether or not we
should move the date of the Function or indeed should we have a Function at all. There seem to be no easy answers but I hope that the Annual Awards Dinner will become a firm fixture in the Football Calendar and I very much look forward to the 2012 event.
Gary Beckett and Frank Wallace (both Enniskillen Town United) became the first recipients of the Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year Awards which were both kindly sponsored by Hamiltons Spar. Both Players were also named in the Division 1 Team of the Year.
We have recently announced the creation of the League’s Hall of Fame which will acknowledge and celebrate the huge contributions made to our Sport by so many people since the establishment of the League in the early twentieth century. An Inaugural Hall of Fame Function is currently being planned to introduce the initial inductees who will be nominated by Member Clubs and chosen by a Selection Committee.
THE WAY AHEAD
As an Organisation we are in times of change and we have to plan carefully for that change. We will have to examine our own structures to see if they meet the requirements necessary to ensure the League’s future prosperity. If change is necessary we will have to ensure that change is made. But we should not make change just for the sake of making change but when change is required we must have the courage to make it because I believe what might have served us well in the past will not be sufficient in the years ahead.
The future structure of the League will be a matter of hot debate given the recent proposals to establish Leagues at Intermediate and Under-18 level. There are pros and cons to these propositions and no decisions have yet been taken at Committee level.
League Administrators, in conjunction with Member Clubs, will extensively review the direction and strategies the League will adopt for its future development. The League is already changing and we anticipate football participation to flourish in the next few Seasons as un-chartered football landscapes such as Belleek and Magheraveely are opened up.
I would also like to thank the Management Committee – a capable and under-acknowledged group – for their considerable efforts on behalf of the League. There is a
wealth of experience, commonsense and football “know-how” among this group that benefits Fermanagh & Western Football hugely. It is a privilege to work and serve with you and indeed enjoy your company on the odd social occasion permitted!
I would especially like to thank my fellow Officers for their unstinting support and for the sterling work they continue to undertake on behalf of local Football. I must single out our Registrar Rory Lynch who performed his role with his customary enthusiasm and dedication - his commitment certainly went beyond the parameters of his position.
I wish to acknowledge the many hundreds of selfless Volunteers around the district for their ongoing and vital contribution to our Clubs. There is no doubt that they are the heartbeat of local Football and we could not function without their output and contributions.
Local Football has always been very fortunate in the people who have represented us in the corridors of power at Windsor Avenue. The forthcoming appointment of Roy Cathcart as a UEFA Match Delegate is a tremendous honour for him, his Club and this League and well-deserved recognition for his outstanding work as an Administrator over many years.
The League wishes to record its thanks to Mountjoy United and NFC Kesh for making their pitches available during the Season.
Once again the League has held all of its Management Committee Meetings and many of its Sub-Committee Meetings at Bawnacre Centre, Irvinestown where we have again been afforded every courtesy by its Manager George Beacom and his staff.
We mourned the passing, during the past Season, of several people who made outstanding contributions to local Football over the years. Paul Keaveney’s death in mid August shocked the entire Football Community and his funeral was a striking reminder of the solidarity that binds Football people throughout the region. We also mourned Danny Rouse and Tommy Kerrigan among others who have left behind a legacy that will continue for many years to come.
We also noted with sadness the passing of Margaretta Hanna (mother of Management Committee Member Martin Hanna). On behalf of the League I would like to offer sincere condolences to all Members who suffered bereavements during the past Season.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the retirement of our Chairman Sammy McFrederick tonight. Sammy has given impeccable service to the League in this role for the past five years and his love and knowledge of the Game and his commonsense approach to the various challenges that arose from time to time are obvious to all who know him. Sammy has been a diligent, supportive and wholly committed Chairman and his experience and wise counsel have been invaluable and will be missed. He always did what he said he would do and he did things in a most conscientious manner.
Sammy’s contribution to local Football has been considerable and he has indeed been a worthy successor to the indefatigable Enda Love. We wish him and his wife Heather many happy years of retirement and it is safe to say that he will be found pitch-side for many years to come. On behalf of everybody Sammy I say “Thank you”.
As we prepare to close another chapter in our History I welcome the challenges of 2011/12 and look forward with enthusiasm and confidence to the years beyond as we strive to make the Fermanagh & Western Football League the best Football League in Northern Ireland.