The Leeds and District Football Association is a historical and traditional body for governing grassroots football at local level across all districts in Leeds. Formed in 1901 it is the largest district football association in West Yorkshire and is run entirely by volunteers.
Over the last couple of years many of the systems for managing pitches, referees, fixtures, leagues and cup competitions have gone entirely online with digital data, and this has been a massive challenge for the Leeds FA, with many life members not having the digital skills to cope.
100% Digital Leeds have been working with the Leeds FA since mid-2019 to combat this and assist them in managing the digitalisation process, including borrowing iPads from Leeds Libraries’ tablet lending scheme and Digital Inclusion Coordinator Paul Wilkes joining the Leeds FA as a co-opted member to take up the voluntary position of Team Coordinator.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, this spelled trouble for the Leeds FA; all grassroots football was cancelled and the season was abandoned. Council and committee meetings were also going to have to be held online for the foreseeable future and many members simply didn’t have the tools to manage this.
“This was a huge challenge for us to get through in getting our members online with the Microsoft365 system now in place for Leeds FA , it was going to be a very difficult thing to do as many had given up on the idea that they would ever be capable of online administration .” – Jack Stott JP, General Secretary Leeds FA
The challenge was on and Paul worked with Jack and Roy Kearsley, the Leeds FA 365 IT administrator on a plan to get as many members as possible online so that the Annual General Meeting in June could go ahead using Microsoft Teams available in Microsoft 365.
All members were contacted by phone and surveyed on their digital skill, how confident they felt and if they had an email address and a Microsoft account to access Microsoft 365. All members who weren’t confident were offered support, with 100% Digital Leeds producing step-by-step instructions on how to register for an email address and Microsoft account..
“This was a challenging time, the County FA made it’s wishes clear that all AGMs would be held via Teams, thankfully we had done some work with 100% Digital Leeds before the virus outbreak which stood us in good stead as it was now non-negotiable you participate online or you are left out.” – Jack Stott JP
Over the following weeks each member was given the knowledge and tools that they required to be able to access Microsoft Teams and on 18 June the AGM went ahead with 34 members joining for their first ever online meeting, a milestone moment after 119 years of operating face to face.
One member who was particularly delighted to be involved was Simon Cookson. Simon contacted Paul as he was feeling out-faced with getting online for the AGM. He had a computer at home but was extremely worried about using it and tended to avoid the internet at all costs. He also had a problem with his email but didn’t know why, he hadn’t received an email for two months.
“Paul talked me through the complicated process of getting online and within a few weeks I went from not having a clue, to being able to log on to a virtual meeting. He fixed my issues with emails and also helped in other ways such as stopping all the junk mail I used to receive and talking me through which links were safe to click – I had gone years missing out as I was too scared to click on any links. A short time with 100% Digital Leeds gave me a lot more confidence with my computer. I never thought I would be able to do something like this.” – Simon Cookson, Yorkshire Amateur League Representative and Leeds FA Life member.
With its new digital capability, the Leeds FA can look forward to the future – minutes and agendas no longer have to be posted out as everybody has access to email and 365 SharePoint. As the members are increasing their skills and confidence it will allow the association to be more flexible in their processes and bring in new ideas.
“Hosting the AGM online was a huge success – when I saw Simon on the call, I couldn’t believe it! We have in total nine life members with 50-years’FA service award and we have a very challenging demographic to get all people access online but we did it. Going forward we envisage more of our meetings going online. Many of the committee meetings could potentially be held online, we’ll still probably do the council meetings face-to-face once the social distancing allows, this has definitely made the members aware of the value of using digital technology. We are also going to investigate setting up new working groups to look at different areas of the association in ways which were not possible before we were 100% digital and online.
100% Digital Leeds is an excellent programme and has made everybody aware of the internet including introducing myself to Learn My Way and being a digital champion. The coronavirus pandemic has forced many of our members to revisit the fact that they were missing out on the full potential of the internet. There was a big challenge in the demographics to overcome, and Leeds FA was so grateful that Paul and the team got involved.” – Jack Stott JP