NAME: Richard Neal
YOUR BUSINESS / ORGANISATION: Suffolk County Football Association
YOUR TITLE IN THAT BUSINESS: Chief Executive Officer
WHEN DID THE BUSINESS LAUNCH?: 1885
ELEVATOR PITCH – TELL US WHAT YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS DOES IN A NUTSHELL:
We work with all organisations involved in grassroots football to provide the best possible experience of football for all.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR BUSINESS’S USP OVER YOUR PEERS?
We are unique in the county from the perspective that we are the only organisation responsible for running and governing the game in Suffolk. However, we work to make the game as accessible, safe, and enjoyable for every club, league, coach, referee, volunteer and player and we do this by working together with the thousands of individuals involved.
We are also very conscious football has an important part to play in Suffolk life, and can contribute to broader county issues. So we work with partners in sport, health and community safety to ensure football promotes the RESPECT values across all levels.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST BUSINESS CHALLENGE SO FAR?
Having personally only started in September, the sheer number of people involved has surprised me. So getting to understand who everyone is and their role has proven an endless task. However, the commitment from all to provide the best possible footballing experience has impressed me, meaning we are starting from a place of collective agreement.
AND YOUR GREATEST SUCCESS?
Is hopefully still to come. We’re very proud of a number of events and initiatives we’re involved in; the KBB Grassroots Festival and Love Football, Live Football Week sponsored by MH Goals to name just two.
As an organisation we have lots we would like to implement to continue to provide that best possible experience, there are exciting times ahead!
WHAT DOES THE NEXT 12 MONTHS HAVE IN STORE FOR YOU?
Whilst ensuring the traditional formats of the game remain buoyant and strong is a key objective for the next twelve months and beyond, we do have to recognise that the way people want to access football is changing.
The biggest areas of growth will be in non-traditional formats of the game and with non-traditional audiences. Increasing and improving the female game will be a specific focus.
We will also be heavily involved in ensuring football is as safe for all to be involved in as possible, through our new Safeguarding Operating Standards.
AND IN FIVE YEARS TIME YOU’D LIKE THE BUSINESS TO?
Have overseen continued growth in football participation across the county, born from everyone having the best possible experience.
NATURALLY, YOU WANT TO REACH CUSTOMERS AND SUPPLIERS AND THOSE WHO CAN HELP YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS SUCCEED. WHO MIGHT YOU WANT TO HEAR FROM?
We have a number of sponsorship opportunities, so we would like to hear from businesses looking to support grassroots football.
WHEN YOU FEEL TROUBLED OR ‘BEATEN’ AT ANY STAGE IN BUSINESS LIFE, WHAT’S YOUR SECRET TO RALLYING YOURSELF?
Just remember what your end goal is and that it’ll be worth it in the end. And Winston Churchill’s “If you’re going through hell, keep going”.
DO YOU HAVE A MENTOR, OR HAVE YOU USED ONE? IF SO, HOW WAS THAT?
Yes, I have had mentors in the past, both formal and informal. They’ve had such a positive effect on me and my development, more than they’ll ever know. Every now and again, I’ll find myself suggesting something to a colleague which a former mentor suggested to me, and you realise they’ve changed your behaviour without you even noticing it. I’d strongly advocate it to anyone.
I’ve also been a mentor and the personal development I got from that was equally as significant.
I don’t think you have to be an expert in your mentee’s field either. The role of the mentor is to support self-reflection and make you think differently about your attitudes, behaviours and actions, and you need no technical knowledge of their sector to do that. It may help form the bond, trust and chemistry needed for a productive mentoring relationship, but it’s actually required for mentoring to take place.
WHAT’S CHANGING ABOUT YOUR INDUSTRY THAT MAKES IT SUCH A GOOD SPACE TO BE IN?
The ways society is changing is challenging our organisation and sport as a whole to alter the way we operate. This changing creates opportunity and challenge in equal measure – what’s not exciting about challenge and opportunity?!
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE WANTING TO ENTER YOUR INDUSTRY SPACE?
The main thing I look for in new staff is the ability to build relationships with anyone from volunteers to MPs. In sports development, I firmly believe this capability will ultimately determine your success or failure.
THE PLUG BIT:
Nick, James and the rest of the team do a fantastic job of making sure our website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are regularly updated. Search Suffolk FA on any of these platforms and join the Suffolk grassroots community!
AND NOW THE SLIGHTLY LESS CORPORATE BIT…
BEST THING ABOUT EAST ANGLIA: The sea and being near family and friends again
YOURSELF IN THREE WORDS: Tall, ambitious and uncomplicated
UNFULFILLED AMBITION: To summit a proper mountain. I tried to climb Mont Blanc a couple of years back – turns out it’s even harder than it looks!
FANTASY DINNER PARTY GUESTS: Ben Parkinson, Cecilie Skog, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Barrack Obama, Amelia Earhart, Elon Musk, Nelson Mandela
WHERE YOU LIVE, WHERE YOU’RE ORIGINALLY FROM (AND WHAT BROUGHT YOU HERE), HOW OLD YOU ARE, WHO YOU LIVE WITH:
I’m 34 and originally from Harwich in Essex. I moved back to Ipswich from Oxfordshire when I joined Suffolk Football Association. It was the job that brought me back, the fact that it’s back towards where I’m from is a terrific bonus.