Mick Baikie is The FA’s National Clubs Service Manager.
Here he explains more about his role in supporting grassroots football through The FA’s Charter Standard Programme and other initiatives.
Q: Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about your role and responsibilities at The FA?
MB: I am the National Clubs Service Manager and I oversee The FA Charter Standard programme, which is The FA’s kitemark programme for grassroots clubs. I also look at how we support and invest in those clubs, as well as how we shape the County FAs’ work to align themselves to those clubs.
Q: What does a Charter Standard club look like and how many are there?
MB: These are clubs in which every coach has to be FA-qualified; they have to have safeguarding and emergency aid and they have to have all good practice and development plans in place.
Through the National Game Strategy, I am also responsible for boosting the percentage of youth and Mini-Soccer played at Charter Standard clubs.
When we started out it was at 40 per cent, whereas now we have doubled that to 80 per cent in just four years - which equates to around 44,000 teams that are now Charter Standard clubs.
We also have our Community Clubs, which are our big clubs and the pinnacle of the Charter Standard programme. We have got 600 of those, with an average of 21 teams, 350-450 players and these are the ones where we are really focusing our investment.
Q: Why is your focus there?
MB: They have invested in us as an organisation and have got all of the policies and qualifications, as well as the coaches in place. So what we try to do is shape all of our FA and key partnership investment into those.
For example, over the last four years the Football Foundation has invested £250m into the facilities of those clubs alone. They now have the facilities where they can train and play and there’s a quality experience for those kids playing in those clubs.
Q: What are the benefits of being a Charter Standard club?
MB: There are two types of benefits. There are those that are intrinsic to the club, so as a Charter Standard club they know they have got policies in place in terms of child protection, equality, and open access.
They can then use that to market and promote themselves to get more players, to get better coaches and to get grants.
Then there are the external benefits, which is where we look to align our funding, our support and key partner support into.
Through the County FAs we have invested £1m in bursaries over the last four years into the County FAs for coaches to be qualified within those clubs - we have distributed our McDonald's funding into coaching by supporting 20,000 coaches get their qualifications.
Added to that, as we move from Umbro to Nike I am just working on securing £500,000 of equipment to those clubs each year as part of a Nike deal.
Q: Aside from the Charter Standard programme, what are your other responsibilities?
MB: I also oversee The FA Community Awards, which recognises and rewards volunteers throughout the country.
And I am currently also the business lead for clubs in something called The Whole Game System, which involves changing the whole computerised administration system for the whole of football.
That will allow clubs to affiliate online, as well as make all payments and self-administer league sanctions and discipline online, so it is a huge project.
Q: You work closely with FA Learning at St. George’s Park. Can you explain what that relationship involves?
MB: As part of The FA Charter Standard criteria, all coaches have to be qualified, have their emergency aid and have their safeguarding. So we work with FA Learning to make sure we organise those.
Another part of my role is something we have just submitted to Government, which is called 'The Whole Sports Plan'. This was a bid for £30m of investment over the next four years.
Some of that investment will hopefully be around £1m in coach mentoring where we will be looking at working with FA Learning and Football Development to really shape what that mentoring can look like for our Charter Standard Community clubs.
Hopefully, we will be looking at employing around 100 mentors around the country to actually focus on giving grassroots coaches a mentor to raise standards of coaches within those clubs.
Q: For clubs that are not currently Charter Standard but would like to be, what is the process?
MB: It is very much driven by County FAs, so clubs can contact their local County FA where the Football Development staff will support them in achieving Charter Standard status.
Last year we trained over 120 County FA staff on things like club structures, which looks at whether clubs should become incorporated or a company and the benefits of both.
We also look at whether they should become a charity or something called a Community Amateur Sports Club where they can access gift aid on donations and actually benefit financially by receiving tax gains from HMRC in terms of gift aid and rates relief.
So I do a lot of that training in these specialist areas together with actually delivering those courses to clubs themselves throughout the country.
Q: How useful is being Charter Standard for clubs to retain players?
MB: It is hugely beneficial, because if you are player in an environment that has good facilities, has good coaches that keep you motivated and has numerous teams where there is progression throughout the club, then you are more likely to want to stay there.
Our community clubs go from U7s all the way through to the adult team and that progression is important.
As an U10 or U11 player you can go along and watch the U18s play on an evening and it is really motivating to watch the older players play.
We have got over 600 clubs with an average of 21 teams, and what that means is that there is a sustainability and an infrastructure that really helps people and clubs survive and stay in the game.
Q: How much of a challenge is it getting grassroots facilities around the country up to adequate levels?
MB: We estimate that there’s a £6bn funding gap to get our facilities in this country up to the appropriate levels.
Obviously we don’t have £6bn, but what we do have is significant money that we invest through the Football Foundation, the Government and other various agencies into our clubs to help support them.
Ultimately, it is about being smart about our resources as well because we have a finite amount but huge demand.
So we have to be focused on where we deliver that and make sure that our investment is really hitting those key people and those key clubs to deliver better grassroots football for us all.