It's now been a month and half since I wrote anything here. Some of this is just the inevitable impact of a school holiday, and being busy, or away, or playing Minecraft with LittleBear. But some of it is because football has eaten my life. I thought that football had already eaten my life before now, when I was simply running a team, but I see now that I was painfully naive.
In July, I asked the Chairman of the club for some help. He helped, but just before helping, he asked me for a favour. Obviously I agreed. Devious bastard. Unfortunately the "favour" was stepping up to assist as a Welfare Officer for the club. This was something I was asked to do when another volunteer stood down two years ago, but I didn't feel I had time to commit to it*. There was no escaping this time.For the past two years, the Chairman has been doubling up as the Welfare Officer as well. What I had not fully appreciated, is (a) the degree of mind-numbing attention to detail required to maintain the database of volunteers at the club and (b) the absence of mind-numbing attention to detail possessed by the Chairman. He cares passionately about the club, and about it being run well, and for the benefit of the children. This doesn't necessarily equate to a mind-numbing attention to detail however.
And thus it arises that I have inherited a system that is, to be kind, not entirely in top-notch condition. I also have not really inherited it. Instead I was asked to only be partially responsible for the system. Because partial responsibility for a complex system is definitely a strategy with no drawbacks. So, for most of August I took a relatively laid-back approach to my responsibilities: I reminded people that their qualifications were expiring; I sent out links to training courses; I gently explored the periphery of another arcane section of the FA's website.
But then reality started biting. I tried asking the Committee why we had so many people listed on our own spreadsheets who were not registered with the FA. Or who all the people registered with the FA, but not on the spreadsheets were. Or why we had so many people registered as applicants to volunteer, whose applications had seemingly been stuck in limbo for months, or possibly years. I was told not to worry about it. I was told that was too many questions. I was told The Spreadsheet Is King**.
I poked around a bit more. I asked the County FA safeguarding officer some questions. To start with she answered them. Then she started getting tetchy. Then she became quite vexed. Because the more I tugged at the threads of the anomalies I found, the more the entire jumper unravelled.
I will not bore you with the excruciating details of the issues I found as I delved deeper, but suffice to say that for the past two weeks I have spent a minimum of 2 hours a night working on ensuring the right people, with the right qualifications are registered with the right teams. The season is about to start, and if a team's registration is not squeaky clean, that team (and potentially the entire club) will be suspended by the FA. In the first three days of September alone, I sent and received over two hundred and seventy emails. I spent, at a conservative estimate, 18 hours over those three days fighting with four spreadsheets, two wings of the FA website, the online Disclosures and Barring Service website and two email accounts***. I have had to book annual leave to cover the time I've spent beating my head against this particular brick wall.
In the end, I bypassed the rest of the Committee and just tackled the FA and all our volunteers head on. I decided not to sit back and ask polite questions, but to just get it done. To mis-appropriate the intended use of a key phrase from my Welfare Officer training:
If not you... who? If not now... when?
There was a job that needed doing, so I did it. I still have qualms that I have trampled on rather too many toes en route. The fact that neither the Chairman nor the other Welfare Officer has replied to any of my emails in the past few days of frenetic activity is now making me feel distinctly anxious. But I am 99.9% sure I have both done things right and done the right thing. At the cost of a huge amount of my own time, energy and emotion. But the right thing nonetheless. I just have to hope other people see it that way...
* This was a grave error. Had I taken over two years ago, I would have inherited a nice tidy system, and this blog post would have read, "I have become a Welfare Officer. The End."
** The Spreadsheet is Not King. The FA database is King, and Queen, and Courtiers, and Joker. If the FA database says you're not qualified to work with children, then that is the final answer.
*** A story for another day. A very, very tedious story.