Lincolnshire Football Association [FA] has been successfully shortlisted for the Brand Engagement, EDI, and Positive Football Environment awards at the 2023 County FA Recognition Awards for the 'Engage Lincolnshire', 'LGBTQ+ Inclusion' and 'Enough is Enough Discipline Roadshow' projects respectively.
The Awards, which will be announced at Wembley Stadium connected by EE on Thursday 23rd November 2023, recognise and endorse the best projects, products and services delivered by County FAs over the past season while sharing best practice and learnings from around the country.
A record breaking 242 submissions have been entered from the 50 County FAs operating across England, highlighting continuous improvements and showcasing how they are innovating to improve grassroots football and increase participation across all levels of the game.
The twelve categories which will be recognised at the awards were:
Employee Wellbeing & Engagement
Equality, Diversity & Inclusion
Positive Football Environment
Women & Girls
• Youth Engagement
Lincolnshire FA made the final shortlist for the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Award for the work completed for LGBTQ+ inclusion, lead by Jordan Mason. A programme of initiatives was developed throughout the 2022/23 season, which included:
• The appointment of a voluntary LGBTQ+ Ambassador
• The launch of the Lincolnshire FA LGBTQ+ Inclusive Accredited Club Programme
• A series of LGBTQ+ Inclusion Workshops
• Social Media campaigns in line with national campaigns, such as Rainbow Laces Week, Football v Homophobia Month of Action, Football v Transphobia Week, and Pride Month
• The Lincolnshire FA Football v Homophobia Weekend of Action
The series of initiatives in the 2022/23 season have been hugely successful. Lincolnshire FA’s LGBTQ+ Ambassador, Zack, was appointed just before Rainbow Laces Week in 2022. Zack is an openly gay grassroots player who has received homophobic abuse in the past, however has shown great personal strength to sustain his involvement in the game and become a proud voice advocating for LGBTQ+ Inclusion in football.
The Lincolnshire FA LGBTQ+ Inclusive Accredited Club Programme has been awarded to 6 clubs, with several more engaged with the programme. Feedback has been incredibly positive. One club that is now accredited shared a story of a sibling of one of their players now feeling comfortable attending games thanks to the accreditation – they previously saw football as unwelcome because of their sexuality, but now come to watch every week!
The LGBTQ+ Inclusion workshops have engaged over 65 attendees across 5 workshops. Feedback from attendees has shown increases in knowledge of LGBTQ+ identities and issues, confidence supporting LGBTQ+ players, and knowledge of the reporting process, with 100% of attendees enjoying the workshop.
Lincolnshire FA’s Football v Homophobia Weekend of Action saw Zack delivering a Q&A to over 9,900 spectators at half-time of Lincoln City’s dedicated game against Portsmouth, and a section in the matchday programme. Over 60 players attended the mixed-gender tournament from across the male, female, disability and walking football pathways. Over 80 attendees attended the panel Q&A event, with Lou Englefield (Pride Sports), Billy Bingham (Astra Partners, Jake Daniels’ Agent) and Graeme Smith (Foxes Pride Chair and Co-Founder) discussing homophobia and LGBTQ+ Inclusion in football.
Jordan Mason, Football Development Officer (Disability & Inclusion), said: "I’m delighted to see that our LGBTQ+ Inclusion initiatives across last season are being recognised at a national scale by The FA.
Last year saw over 60 attendees engage with our LGBTQ+ Workshops, over 80 attendees at out Football v Homophobia event, and to date we have 6 clubs recognised as LGBTQ+ Inclusive Accredited. On top of this, we appointed our first ever LGBTQ+ Ambassador, and transgender inclusion workshops have been delivered to the staff team and to grassroots stakeholders.
Football in Lincolnshire is more inclusive than it’s ever been for those that identify as LGBTQ+, and it’s a testament to the fantastic team here that we are moving in the right direction."
Lincolnshire FA also made the final shortlist for the Brand Engagement Award for the 'Engage Lincolnshire' project, lead by Zack Leader and Stuart Houlton. The project identified that while lots of positive and influential work goes on across the Lincolnshire football landscape, very little of it is shouted about – including the inspirational work that the volunteers in Lincolnshire do, and certainly that of what is delivered by Lincolnshire FA (including County Cup competitions, CPD events, Facilities funding and development, inclusion campaigns, and female, male, and disability pathway opportunities).
The way Lincolnshire FA communicated and engaged with its audience, and the wider footballing community within Lincolnshire, needed a refresh and an upgrade. The majority of these stakeholders weren’t aware of what Lincolnshire FA do on a day-to-day basis, let alone what positive impact we have in supporting and developing the grassroots game in the County, with many only being aware of Lincolnshire FA when receiving fines or disciplinary action.
This would mean delivering digital communications in a way that we never have before, changing the narrative of both the County FA and the wider football narrative and landscape.
As a result, the project saw:
- Our total social media following increased by 2,049 followers
- The number of website users increase by 7.4% to 65,305 users
- Our Facebook content reach 306,540, an increase of 90.6%
- Our Instagram content reach 12,368, an increase of 2.5K%
- Our LinkedIn content make 13,554 impressions
- Our Twitter content make 4.3M impressions
- Our TikTok content have 15,075 views
- Our social media page visits reach 223,455
- Our email marketing database grew from 2,750 contacts to 36,000 contacts, with 2,500 opt-ins grow to 4,099 opt-ins
- A full rebrand of the organisation, designed to reflect the organisation’s mission and vision, including the complete regeneration of colour coding, brand shapes & design, typeface, and voice & tone, that was applied to social media, stationary, etc. New logos were created for each County Cup to develop the identity of the competitions
- A full brand guidelines document was created to develop consistency and brand recognition across all communications
- Across 13 County Cup Finals, 4,000 spectators attended
- Each County Cup final received social media coverage, with Twitter reaching 1,457,037 impressions and 44,906 engagements
Zack Leader, Media & Marketing Officer at Lincolnshire FA, said: "It's an immense honour to have had our 'Engage Lincolnshire' project recognised and shortlisted by The FA. The work we've done in this space is something I'm both incredibly proud of and honoured to be a part of. It's allowed a whole new way of communicating with the amazing grassroots football community of Lincolnshire, and recognising the people in that community for their inspirational work that make the game happen.
Stories like Horncastle Town U15 Girls' inspirational shorts colour-change initiative, teams raising money for the British Heart Foundation, Referee Ernie Broughton reaching 50 years, clubs achieving their LGBTQ+ accreditation, Crosby United raising awareness for testicular cancer, Bottesford Town opening their new facility, among so many others. All these stories are what make Lincolnshire football amazing and it's nice to be able to celebrate these stories with our community. This project has also meant we can present new opportunities for people in Lincolnshire to develop, and get involved in ways they won't have done before, such as getting into refereeing, coach development events, LGBTQ+ inclusive tournaments, 3v3 festivals, and Comets disability football sessions.
I'd like to thank Fiona Green of Winners FDD for her exemplary support in utilising our data and email communications.
This project has also allowed us to enhance the prestigious County Cup competitions; delivering live draws, branding every competition, and providing up to date coverage from every cup final which saw astronomical engagement and reach across our social media channels - well into the millions for impressions. Stuart Houlton has played a huge part in helping to deliver in this area."
Lincolnshire FA also made the final shortlist for the Positive Football Environment Award for the 'Enough is Enough Discipline Roadshows' project, lead by Alistair Hayes, Hayley Gregory, and Chris Funnell. Lincolnshire FA recognised prior to the commencement of the 22/23 season, a continuing upward trend in the number of incidents of misconduct being reported to the County FA. In the 20/21 Season, Lincolnshire FA began tracking misconduct reports using Smartsheets and found we had received and completed 227 investigations in relation to reports of alleged misconduct in grassroots football.
Of these 227 investigations, this resulted in 166 misconduct charges being raised.
In the 21/22 season, these numbers rose significantly, with misconduct investigations rising by 66% to 377. Misconduct charges for season 21/22 also rose by 41% resulting in 234 misconduct charges arising from reports of alleged misconduct. This increase in poor behaviour has also had an impact on enjoyment of the game at grassroots level nationally, with the FA’s own positivity score dropping from 70% in January 2021 to 63% in May 2022.
In total, 7 ‘Enough is Enough’ roadshows were delivered across Lincolnshire between November 2022 and February 2023. Across the 7 ‘Enough is Enough’ Roadshows, we engaged with 167 grassroots volunteers from across Lincolnshire.
These volunteers ranged from League and Club officials to managers and coaches all with a part to play in reporting poor behaviour in Lincolnshire. This comfortably surpassed the original target of 85 attendees for the roadshows.
To help with the engagement with the roadshows, the Lincolnshire FA collaborated with 6 of our grassroots leagues to develop sessions, specific to their league and provide them with information relevant to challenges they may face.
Feedback from the delivery of the roadshows was also positive, with many attendees expecting a lecture for an hour but were pleasantly surprised to have an opportunity to discuss and interact with the delivery.
By having 167 attendees across Lincolnshire, we were able to engage with a large number of volunteers, increasing their knowledge of the disciplinary process and building confidence that there is a process to go through whether as an alleged offender or an alleged victim.
Alistair Hayes, Business Support Officer at Lincolnshire FA, said: "We're delighted that our 'Enough is Enough' disciplinary roadshows and the positive impact they had have been recognised nationally by The FA. This is something that, as a Football Operations team, we are incredibly proud of. We listened to the feedback from clubs and leagues and recognised that we needed to deliver something that demonstrated our commitment to transparency on the discipline processes and to improve the understanding grassroots volunteers have for an often complex process. We also have seen from our own data the increases in poor behaviour, and felt we needed to support clubs and leagues in challenging this behaviour. This culminated in the delivery of 7 roadshows across Lincolnshire and we were delighted to see 167 grassroots volunteers attending and engaging with a discussion about discipline."
Nick Hanson, CEO of Lincolnshire FA, said: "We are very proud to be recognised in three categories at the upcoming County FA Recognition Awards. To be shortlisted in so many categories is testament to the hard work, innovation and dedication of the work undertaken by all at Lincolnshire FA. The categories we have been shortlisted in span the whole spectrum of our work and demonstrates our continued commitment to serving the grassroots football community to the best of our abilities. We look forward to attending the awards event and wish the best of luck to all of the other County FAs nominated.”
The FA’s Head of Operations for Grassroots Football, Tim Foster added: “I’d like to congratulate Lincolnshire FA in making the final shortlist for the Brand Engagement, EDI, and Positive Football Environment awards and all of the other shortlisted County FAs in what has been a record-breaking number of submissions this year.
It has been fantastic to see such a strong selection of programmes and projects entered across the twelve categories, and we look forward to hosting our County FAs at Wembley Stadium in November to thank them for all they do in serving our national game.”
For more information on the work of County FAs, click here
To be one of the first to receive the latest grassroots football news from Lincolnshire, and to receive exclusive offers and discounts from Lincolnshire FA partners – click here