Secretary's Report - League Reports - Secretary's Report 2009/10
Secretary's Report 2009/10
On behalf of the Fermanagh & Western Football League I am pleased to present the League’s Annual Report for Season 2009/2010. It is some eighteen years since I last presented the League’s Annual Report and at the outset I would like to make it clear that any opinions expressed in the Report are solely personal.
Over recent years local Football had lurched from one mismanaged crisis to the next and the League had failed to implement the protocols and procedures that are required by the Rules, demanded by the Members and necessary for the successful administration of the League. It had become clear that key Members of previous Administrations had no interest in the opinions of its Members and even less interest in reform. Sporadic and disjointed attempts had been made in the past to effect change but with no measurable success.
When Members first approached me to challenge for the position of Secretary I did think “is this the right thing to do?” I didn’t have to take the job on but I thought “why not. I’m free to do it. I’m experienced in it.” I hadn’t done it for almost seventeen years and I though it would be quite interesting to go and do it again. I was privileged to be approached by Clubs who placed their trust in me to modernise an anachronistic regime and I was delighted and honoured that I was appointed to the dual positions of Secretary and Fixtures Secretary. The number of people who subsequently got in touch and wished me all the best was fantastic. I was overwhelmed by messages of support and encouragement.
Looking back to 9th June 2009 little did I realise the extent of the challenges that I faced and indeed how long it would take to get the League into a position where we could honestly say that we were fully equipped to address the League’s needs in the twenty-first century. I hoped that my arrival would be the catalyst for change within the “corridors of power”. It was always going to be a fiery transition and I approached the year with some trepidation. There was an underlying mood of resentment and inevitably I faced negative reaction and much hostility too. Because of my background I was inevitably seen as a “Town” man to many people. Nobody can eliminate the shackles of perception. Those who hoped to find “an obvious enemy” in the “corridors of power” were simply misguided fools and they were sorely disappointed. They evidently didn’t know me but as the year progressed the intense ill-feeling, for the most part, dissipated and the atmosphere is now more relaxed.
I immediately identified a range of challenges that needed to be addressed and my focus has been on identifying best practice and suggesting change that would improve the efficiency of the League’s operations. One of my primary concerns with the previous Administration was the complete lack of transparency and accountability that indicated an Organisation that had gone from being extremely well run to being rudderless and autocratic in a very short period of time. Reversing this trend was my primary goal and I commenced the process of having procedures and protocols developed and implemented to ensure that the greatest levels of transparency and accountability were attained. We have made significant strides in a number of other areas and I believe that your response to this year’s work has been positive.
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Football in the Fermanagh & Western region remains in a healthy state despite a slight decrease in participation. Sixty-four Teams, representative of thirty-four Clubs entered our various Competitions and a total of six hundred and twenty-four matches were scheduled. The withdrawal of Augher Stars Reserves before the Season began and the demise of Enniskillen Swifts and Enniskillen Swifts Reserves early in the New Year were regrettable but inevitable given the dearth of effort and enthusiasm prevalent in both Clubs.
It was an extraordinary year severely impacted by heavy rainfall, snow and continuing low temperatures. The adverse weather conditions seriously disrupted the fixtures schedule and three series of fixtures were completely lost while a number of others were severely decimated. A total of two hundred and seventy-eight fixtures were postponed on at least one occasion that necessitated a hectic end of season playing schedule for some Teams who, almost without exception, emerged with great credit by completing the rescheduled fixtures programme with the minimum of fuss.
However suggestions that rescheduled fixtures were prepared to disadvantage Teams are both objectionable and ludicrous. Rescheduled fixtures are prepared on the basis of priorities that are designed to ensure the best possible balance of fixtures across all six Divisions. It is much easier to take a cheap sideswipe on a website than seek an official explanation about a Team’s schedule of re-fixtures. In fact only one Team sought such an explanation and was more than satisfied with the explanation proffered!
There is concern over the unacceptable number of non-fulfilments. A total of twenty fixtures were not played and appropriate fines were imposed on those Teams that conceded walkovers to their opponents.
Six matches were abandoned – three because of serious injuries sustained by players, one because of floodlight failure, one because of the alleged intimidation of a Referee by spectators and one because of an alleged assault on a Referee. The Management Committee resolved that three of these matches be rescheduled and that fines in accordance with Article 19 of the IFA Disciplinary Code be imposed on defaulting Teams in the latter two cases.
The hastily implemented and ill-conceived One Player One Club Regulations placed an almost intolerable burden on Registrar Rory Lynch whose meticulous records reveal that a total of one thousand, eight hundred and sixty-six Players registered to play in our League made up as follows: Tyrone one thousand and eleven Players; Fermanagh – eight hundred and twenty-one Players and adjoining Counties – thirty-four Players. In addition a total of one hundred and four Transfers were effected throughout the Season. All Leagues that were not on the Central Registration System were directed to provide the IFA with information in respect of all Registered Players and Rory was obliged to seek information which was not readily available to him (i.e. dates of birth and postcodes of Players) from Clubs some of which were apathetic or reluctant to provide him with such information. Consequently the information Rory supplied to the IFA was incomplete but it gave him a valuable insight into what awaits him when the Central Registration of Players eventually becomes a reality.
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The Annual Friendly fixture against Sligo & District League was not played for obvious reasons and it is hoped that it can be played in the near future.
Congratulations to all Teams who celebrated League Championships and promotion success last season and to the Players I extend thanks for the entertainment they provided. While the Players put on the show it is the hundreds of Volunteers behind the scenes that made it all possible and it is this enormous support that allows all in the Fermanagh & Western Football Community to enjoy our great Game.
Mercer Cup (Division 1) The questions on everybody’s lips at the start of the season were: “Can ‘Town’ win an unprecedented sixth consecutive Mercer League title?”; “Is there anyone out there capable of taking their place?” and “If so, who?”. The answers, of course, proved to be “No”; “Yes” and “Lisbellaw United” who claimed their first Mercer League title since Season 1980-81. James McGrath’s charges (Runners-Up for the previous two Seasons) dominated the Season from start to finish and were deserved Champions with a record total of fifty-six points. Only two games were lost en route and they celebrated winning the title on their home ground at Drumad on 27th April. The success of the former kingpins of local Football was well merited and widespreadly welcomed.
The performance of the two promoted Teams Glebe United and Fintona Swifts showed that Teams can move up and prosper with the former having an astonishing first ever Season in the top tier. They were worthy Runners-Up - losing only twice and on both occasions to the eventual Champions – and were left to ponder what might have been!
Defending Champions Enniskillen Town United had, by their own admission, a frustrating season and struggled to maintain their grip on the Mercer Cup but still put in an admirable defence of their crown finishing in third place.
Newcomers Fintona Swifts performed consistently well throughout and finished an impressive fourth – one point ahead of Ballinamallard United Reserves. Churchtown had a storming second half of the Season to finish in a creditable sixth position
There was plenty of drama at the other end of the table where Strathroy Harps and Shelbourne battled it out to avoid joining bottom side Clabby Strollers in Division 2 next Season. For many months it seemed that Shelbourne would be relegated but, not for the first time, they built an amazing escape route and suddenly Strathroy Harps found themselves staring relegation in the face. The eventual Mulhern Cup Winners’ poor run of form in the League at the wrong time saw them lose their battle against the drop after three years in the top flight.
Enda Love Cup (Division 2) Division 2 was without doubt the most keenly contested of the Divisions with four Teams harbouring aspirations of promotion as they entered the final series of fixtures. Barrowfield’s draw with Enniskillen Rangers all but eliminated them from the equation while Killen Rangers’ defeat by Beragh Swifts consigned them to yet another season of Second Division football. Competition was intense throughout and it was Beragh Swifts who won the title in the end to earn a well-deserved return to the top Division after an absence of four years. They showed their form early and remained unbeaten until their penultimate game by which time promotion had already been secured although the Tyrone outfit were extremely grateful to hang on to their
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two points lead in a dramatic photo-finish with second placed Enniskillen Rangers who had the consolation of regaining their Division 1 status which they had relinquished six Seasons ago.
Drumquin United, newly promoted from Division 3, found it difficult adapting to life in Division 2 and only managed two wins.
Brendan Keogh Memorial Cup (Division 3) After suffering the ignominy of relegation the year before Omagh Hospitals ensured that their sojourn in Division 3 would be a short one as they swept the opposition away to secure a third Division 3 Championship. Brendan Morrison’s side suffered only one defeat in eighteen matches in their run to the title scoring an impressive fifty-five goals along the way and they finished a comfortable seven points clear of second placed Spamount Swifts.
The promoted sides dominated the Competition to such an extent that their combined total of ninety-one points was only sixty-six points less than the combined total of the other eight Teams. The crucial matches inevitably involved both these Teams with Omagh Hospitals’ victory in early March proving to be the catalyst for their League title.
Drum United had the dubious distinction of having the worst playing record in the League. They had a nightmarish campaign and ended the season without a point. Two non-fulfilments across the course of the Season and the ensuing automatic fines further compounded their misery.
Pete Keane Memorial Cup (Reserve Division 1) Enniskillen Town United Reserves ultimately prevailed to win the title for the second year in succession. Lisbellaw United Reserves started their campaign with a flourish but were unable to sustain their challenge while the defending Champions Enniskillen Town United Reserves surged through from almost nowhere to take another title. They were in the bottom half of the table after seven games but a superb run during which they gained maximum points from eleven games saw them win a record sixth Reserve Division 1 title.
Lisbellaw United Reserves eventually finished in the Runners-Up position having shared that position twelve months earlier with Killen Rangers Reserves – a scenario which blatantly contravened League Rules which unequivocally state that “in the event of Teams being equal on points the Teams concerned shall, if necessary, play off a deciding match or matches on neutral ground”!
Irvinestown Wanderers Reserves’ stay in the top Reserve Division was brief and they will be joined in Reserve Division 2 next Season by Shelbourne Reserves.
Robin Porter Memorial Cup (Reserve Division 2) Enniskillen Rangers Reserves claimed the Robin Porter Memorial Cup with a rare perfect 100% record in their sixteen match campaign. They repeatedly outclassed the opposition as they raced to the
title and they finished an incredible nineteen points ahead of second placed Enniskillen Santos Reserves. Michael Curry’s men were so far ahead of the rest that they sealed the title with four matches to spare and not only did they score more goals than any other Team in the Division but they had the best defensive record as well.
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The chasing pack all had their moments but ultimately they could not last the pace and Enniskillen Santos Reserves finished in the Runners-Up position – some three points clear of third placed Beragh Swifts Reserves.
Lisbellaw United III’s draw with Fivemiletown United Colts in their final game ensured both Teams’ place in Reserve Division 2 at the expense of Dergview III.
Patton Cup (Reserve Division 3) Clabby Strollers Reserves set the pace from the start and surprised many people by maintaining their fantastic early season form to ensure promotion to Reserve Division 2 in early March. They were runaway winners finishing the season nine points ahead of second placed Dunbreen Rovers Reserves who were involved in an intriguing battle for the Runners-Up position with Spamount Swifts Reserves and Orchard Farm Reserves.
At the bottom of the table Mountjoy United III finished last – the only bright sparks in their campaign being 2-2 draws with Churchtown Colts and Lisnarick Reserves.
Kennedy Cup The Annual Season Curtain Raiser between the previous Season’s Mercer League Champions (Enniskillen Town United) and Mulhern Cup Winners (Churchtown) was played at Bawnacre Centre, Irvinestown on Tuesday 11th August. Enniskillen Town United’s 3-2 victory over Churchtown saw them claim a third success in the revamped Competition.
The Fermanagh & Western Referees’ Association continues to provide an outstanding service and I wish to pay tribute to all the Referees for the essential job they carry out, week in week out, for the League and whose efforts are not always appreciated.
I must commend the work of Match Appointments Officer Basil Marshall. My thanks to him for his efforts which ensured that Official Referees were appointed to 93.4% of our fixtures last Season – a statistic which is the envy of all other Junior Leagues.
Refereeing remains an important and integral part of Football. It can be challenging but it can also be rewarding and fun, and as with players, it develops character, physical fitness and teamwork. An enormous amount of time and effort goes into the development and recruitment of Referees and the fact that so many of our Referees progress is testament to the development work carried out by the local Referees’ Association which is always on the lookout for more Referees. I would encourage anyone from your Club who may have an interest in refereeing to do something about it. Former players who referee are able to quickly adapt and become a valuable resource to the Game. Fourteen former players are now among the ranks and they are finding the experience as enjoyable as they did in their playing days.
Members of the Referees’ Committee met with Members of the local Referees’ Association on two occasions last Season and regular Meetings will be held in forthcoming Seasons.
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It is fair to say that the outgoing Management Committee met more often this season than for many seasons and this involved an increased time commitment from all concerned. Overall the Committee met on eight occasions throughout the year, excluding the Meeting immediately following the Annual General Meeting on 9th June, and functioned fairly well. Attendances at Meetings were satisfactory despite the regular absences of some Members prior to their eventual expulsion from the Committee. 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 would like to thank the Members of the Management Committee for their contributions (however great or small) that they made to progress the affairs of the League. Their hard work and dedication often go unnoticed but they are always appreciated.
Changes in the administration of the League have been profound. Much work has gone into setting up new and transparent governance procedures and it is a credit to the Members of the Management Committee that they were prepared and willing to embrace change, accept new challenges and welcome initiatives that might have disturbed the current status quo – this is how the League will continue to evolve and to prosper.
The Registrar’s Committee met regularly throughout the Season while there were occasional Meetings of the Finance and League Membership Committees. The Rules Revision Committee met on two occasions and unanimously formulated packages of proposed alteration / additions to Rules which were subsequently put forward for consideration to Extra-Ordinary General Meetings. It was disconcerting to note that several Members proceeded to vote against proposals that they had earlier helped to formulate with unanimity. It is clear that their changed voting patterns were reflective of their Club’s agendas and these Members must evaluate their own performances.
We have already seen many changes within the management and operations of the League within the last twelve months. There have been a number of new initiatives including monthly Meetings of the Management Committee; the circulation of Minutes of these Meetings to all Members of the Management Committee thus fulfilling the need to keep everyone informed and involved and not allowing anyone to make the usual plea of ignorance of what is going on within the Organisation and the regular distribution of synopses of these Meetings to all Club Secretaries. I don’t wish to sound cynical but it would be nice to think that Club Members and Players have been as equally as informed as Club Secretaries – in other words has this information been shared and passed on to those at ‘grass roots level’?
Notwithstanding there remain deficiencies and shortcomings that must be dealt with and I think it is an appropriate time to examine the administrative functions of the League. Are our current structures sufficient to manage the Organisation and its needs in the future? The answer, I believe, is “No”. The administrative demands have grown significantly over the past number of years and we must challenge ourselves to seek
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advances in technology to alleviate the time and effort required to administer the League. There is clearly a great range of competencies within the Committee and we must make best use of this expertise.
It is clear that the current League Rules need to be extensively revised to bring it into line with IFA guidelines and requirements identified by the Rules Revision Committee. It is an incontrovertible fact that several Offices are surplus to requirements and more attention must be given to the appointment of Sub-Committees.
At last year’s Annual General Meeting Joey Burke stood down as Registrar and Rory Lynch was elected in his place. Passionate in his approach Rory committed himself to the role and maintained the highest standards of administration and I want to acknowledge his tremendous input that has been alluded to earlier in my Report.
Finance continues to be a constant source of concern. The period under review reveals that a substantial deficit was incurred and it is essential that we find ways to generate more revenues rather than curtail expenditure Treasurer Gordon Lee will report another loss (£3,977.15) on the season’s activities. Income for the season totalled £25,787.00 - a decrease of £923.50 while expenditure amounted to £29,764.15 – an increase of £2,059.84 on the previous season.
The accounts detail the impact of several factors, many uncontrollable, which culminated in yet another loss for the Season. Adverse circumstances include a significant drop in sponsorship - it is alarming to note that our Reserve Divisions are without a Sponsor and it an issue that needs to be addressed. The Fort Lodge Hotel once again sponsored Division 1, newcomers Westend Coffee Shop Aisling Centre sponsored Division 2 while The Print Factory sponsored Division 3 and we are grateful for their financial support. Despite recent protracted sponsorship negotiations with ASDA not bearing any fruit we are nevertheless positive that we will indeed attract a major Sponsor in the coming months who will embrace the exciting new League sponsorship package on offer that includes naming rights and a range of branding opportunities across the activities of the League.
Today the League remains financially comfortable and this is due to prudent financial management over many years that have enabled us to absorb recent losses. This cannot continue indefinitely and it is essential that we continue to seek new and innovative ways to source more revenues rather than curtail expenditure. We are challenged with producing adequate financial resources for the League while being cognisant of the impact that price increases have on our Clubs.
It is perhaps time to develop a fund raising strategy that would establish a sound financial base that would sustain the ever-increasing annual costs of running the League. Clubs must support our fund-raising activities and our search for new Sponsors while it is beholden on the IFA to invest substantially in Junior Football – its indifference / reluctance to make funds available in the past can best be described as derisory!
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The local press is an important vehicle for communication and provides a valuable service to people who are unable to attend our games for various reasons. As a consequence all local newspapers have an obligation to provide an adequate coverage of our games.
The coverage of our games in the local press throughout the year could not be considered as anything but disappointing. That Lisbellaw United’s first Mercer League title in twenty-eight years attracted less column inches in a local journal than an indeterminate Brendan Keogh Youth League Under-13 fixture is risible! The lack of coverage given to Teams in Division 3 and the Reserve Divisions is frustrating and is a matter of concern. The exploits of Enniskillen Town United Reserves in winning a sixth Reserve Division 1 Championship went largely unnoticed as did Enniskillen Rangers Reserves’ splendid and rare achievement in winning Reserve Division 2 with a 100% record. I could go on and on but I think that I have made it abundantly clear that the local press has yet again failed to provide an adequate coverage of League affairs
Only Terry Patterson (Ulster Herald) can be seen scribbling notes on a touchline every Saturday afternoon – other Members of the Press are conspicuous by their absence from the touchlines (and from Meetings of the Management Committee) as they rely on Clubs to write match reports for them or else they choose to write these reports themselves from the comforts of their centrally heated offices and from oft times factually incorrect information gleaned from Clubs. Perhaps it is time to hold a Media Seminar that will bring together League Officials, Clubs, Sports Editors and local Reporters in an attempt to provide positive promotion of our Sport and improve the coverage of our Game.
Notwithstanding I would acknowledge the best efforts of Colm Bradley (Fermanagh Herald), Tommy Nethery (Tyrone Herald), Gareth Cauldwell (Impartial Reporter) and Chris Caldwell (Tyrone Constitution) whose endeavours provided a restricted coverage of our games. I would also commend Paddy Hunter (Q101.2) for his coverage of our affairs within enforced limitations.
The Bawnacre Results Service continues to provide an invaluable service to Member Clubs and the general public and we are indebted to George Beacom and his staff for their endeavours.
As you are undoubtedly aware the League will shortly take over the website www.fermanaghandwestern.com with a planned launch expected in August. It will become an invaluable source of information about the League and its activities and over the course of the next few months changes will gradually be introduced although it will take some time to fully populate the site with the immense amount of information that people require.
In the last twelve months numerous initiatives have occurred which hopefully have
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enabled the League to be transformed into an open, accountable, challenging and inclusive Organisation and I can assure you that many more initiatives are in the pipeline.
While many of our Clubs are extremely well run and have developed innovative ways of administering their operations there are others who are not. I see the sharing of best practice as a major opportunity for the future and we must ensure that all necessary support is given to enable such Clubs to progress. We must assist them with their administrative procedures and advise them on best practices, structures and planning.
Continued improved communications has to be a priority. In today’s electronic age maximising the use of modern technology is the most effective way of communicating with our Members. Downloads alone will save us a significant amount of money as this information would have previously been printed, copied, packaged and sent by post.
Another innovation would be the establishment of a Masters (Veterans) Division. The introduction of such a Competition will be a challenge and the League will need to find a balance to embrace and respect the social element of the Competition while at the same time ensure the presentation and management of the Competition maintains League standards. It would indeed be a welcome addition to our League.
Each Season should climax with an Annual Awards Dinner that would pay tribute to the current stars of local Football. It is envisaged that Awards would include Club of the Year, Divisional Teams of the Year, Divisional Players of the Year, Divisional Young Players of the Year, Divisional Managers of the Year, Personality of the Year, Fair Play Award and Hall of Fame (Services to Football) Award that would honour Individuals who have given distinguished service to local Football. The Annual Dinner would be a wonderful evening of celebration and should become a well-established and important function in the social calendar each year.
Over the next twelve months not only will we need to keep improving in those areas previously referred to but we will also need to effect a complete overhaul of our archaic Rules, develop a Strategic Plan for the next five / ten years and undertake a review of Committee structures. We face tough challenges to move our League forward and it is paramount that we are not found wanting.
I want to thank our Chairman Sammy McFrederick and our Registrar Rory Lynch – the
former for his support and wise counsel throughout the year and the latter for his work in what is an ever demanding role. It was easy to strike up a great working relationship with both of them and this enabled me to step into my role with a minimum of fuss.
Thanks are also due to our Treasurer Gordon Lee who continues to perform his tasks most efficiently and effectively.
I would like to extend my wholehearted thanks to those Management Committee Members who have given so generously of their time and expended their energy on the
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League’s behalf. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Members of the
the various Sub-Committees for their input during the season. I commend them on their
efforts and sincerely thank them for their individual and collective efforts over the past year. I trust that they will reflect that their year with the League has been both enjoyable and rewarding.
I want to acknowledge the efforts of all Club Secretaries and the Volunteers who contribute so much to the running of games in our League on a weekly basis. I am constantly amazed at the time and effort put in by all the Volunteers. We are fortunate to have so many dedicated Members working to keep Football vibrant throughout Fermanagh and West Tyrone. For your tireless efforts a very big thank you.
The League has availed of the splendid facilities at Bawnacre Centre, Irvinestown for many years now and our every want and whim has been seen to by its affable Manager George Beacom and his staff. We thank them for their continued warmth of welcome and hospitality.
The sudden and tragic deaths of Beragh Swifts’ player Mark Lynch in January and Stephen Henderson (father-in-law of Management Committee Member Johnny Noble) in mid-June saddened all who were fortunate to have known them as did the death in late October of Andrea Armstrong (mother of Management Committee Member Bob Armstrong). I would like to extend my sympathy to all their family circles and indeed to all Members who have been bereaved during the past year by the loss of those dear to them.
In conclusion I thank you all for your attendance here tonight. I wish you all well in the new Season, both on and off the pitch, and I hope that we can continue to work together to ensure a prosperous future for Fermanagh & Western Football.
by Gerard Connolly
1st July 2010