Neil Ward, CEO of the Welsh Football Trust, was a guest speaker at one of our networking events recently. We grabbed him for five minutes after he addressed our members to ask him a few questions about Wales’ recent footballing success. This is what he had to say.
1. What was your personal highlight of the Euro 2016 tournament?
It would have to be being present at the quarter final match in Lille to witness a very special game. Two million people in Wales were at some point watching that game, which highlights the interest that the tournament created across the country. Not forgetting the 200,000 people who lined the streets of Cardiff to welcome the team back to Wales.
2. How has Wales’ success in Euro 2016 helped to improve awareness of football in Wales?
The interest generated has been exponential and unprecedented. This has been reflected in the sell-out of the Cardiff City Stadium for the first two World Cup qualifying matches and in grass roots recreational and club activity following the tournament. There have been over 10,000 downloads of our Euro curriculum resource for Primary Schools, and 2,000 people attended a club recruitment day in Risca.
3. What is being done to maximise this success at a grassroots level?
We have agreed a plan with the Board to expedite activities within our 2015 to 2020 Corporate Strategy to continue to drive us forward. In the short term, this has included support for clubs to help grow their membership and to showcase such successes as exemplars to other clubs.
4. How are you going to ensure that the profile of Welsh football is maintained?
We have an Advocacy and Communications Plan which maps out our future priorities for maintaining the profile of the grass roots game and the Trust’s key activities. This forms a multi-platform approach including a significant focus on use of digital media. An important focus for us is to raise awareness of the importance of protecting grass roots facilities, to ensure that the game can continue to flourish.
5. What are your hopes and aspirations going forward?
It must be that the success of last Summer is not a one-off achievement and that Wales continues to enjoy further international success in the future. For this to happen it’s important that the grass roots game thrives and continues to be the breeding ground for such success. Also, that both local and national government recognises the contribution that football makes to the key agendas of national health and well-being and converts this recognition into enhanced fiscal support.
For more information on the Welsh Football Trust, please see here.