Gregg Cropper's reflections on an eventful six months
Now that things have (just about!) settled down after an amazing week in Nottingham it is worth reflecting on what we have achieved in the past six months here at England Touch.
When I took up the role as Chief Operating Officer, our first full-time paid position – and the only full-timer at any National Touch Association outside Australia and New Zealand – I was excited about all of the developments in front of us.
And now that we’re three-quarters of the way through the season I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved.
We have overhauled the National Touch Series, consolidating the different competitions into one coherent brand, and played at five new venues, all within a refreshed format. Live streaming these events has also been a huge success and the reach, engagement and followers of our social media channels has increased dramatically, up by 28% up to over 50k impressions per week.
Our new website is now fully mobile optimised, and includes a membership portal and online shop, with open communication channels and will be developed further to become the ‘go to’ resource centre for Touch in England.
We’ve seen our club competitions go from strength-to-strength over the past few years, but nothing compares to the planning needed for the largest European Touch Championships ever!
From writing the original hosting bid two years ago, to packing down the last marquee on Sunday, it’s certainly been a mix of emotions throughout it all.
The growth of the event, 20% bigger than 2016, with 61 teams from 17 countries, is testament to the hard work being done by National Touch Associations across the continent and beyond. It’s both encouraging and staggering to see the number of participants attending each Euros and with further lessons learned I know that 2020 will be even bigger and better!
I’ve been delighted by the reaction to this years Euros. When planning began and I started to pull together a Local Organising Committee, I knew we were putting together a week to remember, and seeing that everyone has gone home from Nottingham absolutely buzzing, we certainly achieved that.
The Touch on show was superb, world class in fact, we were privileged to have lots of coverage and support from the BBC, and the engagement on social media has been amazing, both in the build-up, during the week and in the days after. Even the sun shone on us every day too, which makes a massive difference to any event.
An immense amount of time (blood, sweat and tears!) was put in by everyone – players, coaches, medical staff, organisers, referees and volunteers – and we’re delighted to have seen it pay off. This applies equally to England Touch as it does to Europe and the tournament as a whole.
As part of the Championships, we ran a small pilot for schools and had four teams from three schools in Nottingham, Upton Park (East London) and Wymondham (East Anglia) come to Highfields. They got chance to make a tunnel for the players to run down on the main pitch, carried the flags for those teams in the finals and even collected autographs from the England stars after it too.
This was great to watch; all of the children looked to have had fun, and hopefully have been inspired to take up the sport more seriously.
There are always people to thank for making this such a superb tournament:
Ken Pollard and Kevin Hill, the other two musketeers, without whom an event of this magnitude simply wouldn’t have happened
Erica Robertson, the volunteer lead, and her team, especially Zoe Malarkey and Jen Jones
Chris Wearmouth and the media team, who followed the ‘it needs to happen so let’s make it happen’ mantra. Chris Bryant’s video round-ups were superb, Howard Goldberg led the photographers, and Nick Heath’s work on the England Rugby ‘Good Luck’ video made a massive impact on the squad
Adrian, Nic, Mark and the crew from 24/7 Media, who put together a superb production with commentators Dave and Steve. 24/7 Media have been our broadcast partners throughout 2018 and the showed how much understanding they’ve got of our sport in how they covered the Euros
Mitch and Laurence Brough from For Any Event UK, who sorted the logistics of the event in terms of set-up, packdown, marquees, PA, and so on. We’ve worked with them for a while as well and they always work relentlessly with a smile on their faces
Cari Thorpe and her expert team of medical staff, from sports therapists, physiotherapists, chiropractors and doctors. A very smooth operation covering the 10 England teams, 100 referees and those countries without any medical staff travelling
Josh Bingley, from Open Air Design, for the logo creation and outstanding graphics and merchandise design
Nottingham University's Christine and Corinne, for their over and above assistance pre, during and post event. We will be back!
To everyone else who’s played their part, however big or small, I’m immensely proud of what was an excellent and memorable event you helped create
But we’re not resting on our laurels, far from it. Yes, we have delivered the best European Touch Championships ever and have seen our club competitions go from strength to strength, but I’m more than aware of the need to use this as a springboard for the future.
Our Plans New Schools Touch Development officers have recently been appointed and a strategy and framework in which they will be looking to implement and work within over the coming year has been developed. This document sets out 10 goals, reasons why, along with timelines we are aiming for. Schools tool-kits, interactive forums, Teacher CPD and downloadable resources all form part of the work being done in this area
Our Board We have a more diverse board, including a number of independent non-executive directors, resulting in more effective decision making based on a diversity of views. Both ournon and executive board is now nearly full, with 11 of the 12 positions occupied by individuals with a wealth of knowledge in the sector
Our Partners We’ve re-signed our three longstanding partners in Belief, SPORTTAPE and Steeden, who have become synonymous with Touch over the past 3-4 years. Bhubesi Pride have become our first charity partner, and Red Bull used the European Touch Championships as their first foray into the sport. More importantly, we’re being contacted regularly by companies and charities who want to work with us.
After months of discussions, we have finalised and renewed our partnership agreement with England Rugby. This new alliance will see the ETA and RFU work together to increase participation in Touch in both organised clubs and the wider community in England, through financial investment and additional resource.
Our Future Finally, we have recently submitted our Sport England recognition pre-application documentation, which, if approved, will give us 12 months to apply for full recognition status. It’s felt we are at the stage in our development as an organisation that it’s worth re-exploring this process and the potential partnership, funding and wider responsibilities that go along with becoming a recognised NGB, further.
Embarking on this monumental submission follows the collaboration work done last year with the Sport and Recreation Alliance and Oneside Law, where we developed new articles of association as the basis for future development, growth, and good governance.
This huge piece of work has brought large parts of the team together in order to show our progress and development over the years as a maturing NGB, of which I’m incredibly proud.
A huge thanks to all those who've assisted both England Touch and myself personally, to get to where we are today.