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Haden working hard for grassroots football
Haden working hard for grassroots football

The Kent FA offices at Cobdown have been closed since Lockdown began, but the administrative wheels of Kent’s footballing authority have continued to turn thanks to a hardy few – KSN has been talking to CEO Darryl Haden.

“It’s not been easy the last twelve weeks,” Darryl admitted. “The FA’s decision to conclude grassroots football came around the end of March, and that then caused lots of issues for us in how we ended and how we supported our clubs and Leagues around that process as well.”

“The word unprecedented has been used a lot lately but it really was or is unprecedented times that we’re in – we’ve never seen this before, we’ve never planned for this and I guess that it was new to all of us and we had to try and find ways rather quickly on how we could support our clubs and our Leagues to end that season.”

“I don’t think that they (the FA) ended things too soon, I think that the FA had no choice really and consistency in the decision across all football from Isthmian Premier down to grassroots made sense.”

“I understand the National League wanting to see whether they could finish the season in line with the Football League, I think that decision was most probably around the promotion and relegation issue. But overall, the consistency had to be there.”

“We managed to get eight of our Finals played before Lockdown – we’ve still got a few left and we still haven’t made a decision yet on them; there’s a desire from us as an association and board if we can get them finished, we will.”

“Obviously time’s running against us a little bit at the moment but we’re looking at a lot of possibilities and eventualities on how we can get those Cup Finals up and running whether they become a season opener as it were, especially for the Senior Cup and maybe the Senior Trophy – we could look at something like that – but there’s lots of options at the moment, but we’re like everyone else that we can’t do anything and we’re just waiting for a bit more guidance and support and a bit more information from Government when we can get back going!”

“But in terms of Lockdown, it has had a massive effect on us as an organisation. We like most other businesses saw a massive almost falling off a cliff of our income streams.”

“So if you think as well as our delivery of supporting clubs and leagues as well as delivering a lot of coaching courses – they’ve all had to stop – we’ve had no income through the normal routes of coaching courses, discipline and fines and so it’s had a real impact on us as an organisation like it has in most other industries across the country and around the World!”

Despite the Lockdown, the County has continued to support their members in ways not seen to everyone. Daryl told us, “The Football Foundation’s pitch preparation fund has been a tremendous success, this has been driven by Lee Suter who has been pushing it out, and to get over 135 grants which comes to around £361,000 worth of investment is fantastic.”

“This will see over five hundred football pitches improved across Kent which is a massive level of investment for us and that’s been driven by the staff at the Kent FA – Lee, with assistance from Jordon Mann, has really gone out there and pushed it to our clubs. We’ve got clubs right the way across the board who are going to benefit from the fund. “

“We’ve also been supporting our leagues and clubs around administration of their management meetings, encouraging them to use the technological systems that are out there. We are now entering the time of year where clubs and leagues will be holding their AGMs and as a County we have been offering a lot of support around holding these remotely.”

“So, from our point of view, we are skeleton staff – we may not respond to people quite as quickly as we would have done, but we will do it! Our staff really have been first class and really keen to provide the best support and guidance that we can in this difficult time!”

“It’s been difficult for our staff – we have furloughed fourteen of them, the Government’s Job Retention scheme is something that we’ve had to utilise, we’ve had no income coming in, but we still have expenditure which has to be met, this scheme has allowed us to cover 80% of our largest expenditure” the CEO said.

“We have been supporting the staff who have been furloughed and to be fair, every one of them have been fantastic and supported the decision; they understand the reason why the County have done it and they’re desperate to get back – they’re all passionate people; they all want to have an impact in grassroots football; they’re all positive about their jobs and their role.”

The County CEO then paid his own tribute to Colin Boswell, the Kent FA President who sadly passed away recently.

Darryl said, “We were extremely saddened to hear the news that Colin had unfortunately passed away. He gave so much to Kent Football over many years – he had been a member of Kent FA since 1967, and held a variety of roles including Vice- Chairman, Director and lately President.”

“He was also instrumental in creating the Kent Youth League back in 1981 and oversaw the growth of that league. Colin was a great supporter of Kent Football and would watch several games every weekend. I know that he will be missed by the whole of Kent football.”