Blacktown & District Soccer Football Association Chairman Bill Owen cannot wait for the first ball to be kicked this weekend as four months of waiting on the sidelines officially comes to an end tonight (Friday 3rd July).
The 54-year-old couldn’t hide his excitement when talking about the Return to Football once again following the game’s postponement in March due to COVID-19 – that and his appreciation to the hardworking Board and Staff at BDSFA.
“I am extremely happy for the membership and wider community that we are returning to football as community sport has such a strong connection to all its participants.
“It has been some 4 months now and there has been limited certainty and as each week has gone on, the resolve of the membership to come through this period together has been exceptional and the strength and character of our volunteer club members to embrace the hurdles before them to give their clubs every opportunity to actively participate in the modified season, was uplifting.
“The BDSFA Board and the leadership team lead by Adam Fairley, Sue Sim and Mik Carraro have worked tirelessly from early March to provide information-based updates to the entire membership.
“A plan of management was developed with multiple scenarios based upon timelines, workable competition models with built in risk factors that was published early to the clubs with a view on the importance on the benefits of sharing information aides to better outcomes. Throughout this period, this information has allowed the membership to plan and prepare for various outcomes as we move forward together on this journey confronted with the constraints of COVID-19.
“Our referees branch was instrumental in underpinning this work as it provided confidence and insight that once we returned to full training and full competition, that our referees branch was up and ready to go.
“Within the Blacktown football community, the BDSFA Board and leadership team assist and manage multiple levels of football. We are extremely fortunate to have 24 fantastic grassroots clubs that drive community football from our little ones ‘the Miniroos’ through to our tribal grassroots Premier League as well as all age men.
“We are also a leading contributor to women’s football across all age groups and across all levels of female football and it is extremely obvious when you highlight the positives with the collaboration with the GDSFA and its membership clubs that support and help drive the Phoenix League which has one of the largest female competitions in the Sydney basin.
“As previously mentioned, we have a wonderful referees branch lead by Anthony Pirello, Jason McManus, Frank Van Der Burg and Craig Balcombe. They have engaged actively with all the membership throughout this pandemic.
“We have our Blacktown Spartans and Association Youth League which is lead by the Spartans Board. We have NPL NSW top tier Women’s and NPL 2 NSW Men’s which the top tier of our pathway programs and we have arguably the best coaching and management personnel that you would find anywhere in elite football.
“We have a massive focus on the development and education through our SAP program and mandate ‘better outcomes are achieved through better coaching and holistic ownership of the football education process’.
“All of the above cannot happen without the commitment and dedication of a wonderful group of people that are volunteers and are too numerous to mention but we would be a lesser organisation if we did not have their trust, care and support.”
With a whole host of opening matches scheduled for this weekend commencing tonight (Friday 3rd July) and a Grand Final Weekend planned for the 16/17/18 of October, Owen has been delighted and impressed with how his amazing clubs have taken to the ‘Return to Football’ guidelines.
“Every club in Blacktown has rolled up its sleeves and abided by the guidelines regardless of the weather, team sizes or the fear of contracting COVID-19. They have set up registration check in areas, combined with hygiene protocols upon arrival and departure from parks, bearing in mind as community based sport, nearly all Blacktown fields are unfenced and have multiple access points and through social media and vigilant education, every clubs membership is acutely aware of the importance of presenting yourself to these check point areas prior to participating in training or playing.
“The collegian of Blacktown clubs has been greatly strengthened by the sharing of information predominately through social and electronic media and this has allowed all the membership to remain connected and updated, not just at their own club but across all clubs and the association as a whole of which they are an intrinsic part.
“To standardise this process, every Blacktown club has been issued a red marquee as a landmark location at each club to be used on training nights and game days and again through constant education and updates, the membership know and are aware that on arrival at any park within Blacktown, you must look for the red marquee for personal hygiene, attendance tracking and the health protocols around prior health conditions.”
The BDSFA CEO echoed his thoughts on how the association and Blacktown City Council have formed a good relationship than in recent years regarding the upgrade of facilities across the football mad area
“Blacktown City Council and the BDSFA have had one of the most productive and positive working relationships for some 40 years.
“Their belief in the benefits that come from participating in community sports with high quality community facilities is so understated because we take for granted how good our facilities are within the Blacktown area.”
Finally, Owen wanted to pay tribute to his clubs, their staff and passionate volunteers who have all worked together in getting the game back to where it belongs – and that’s kicking off competitively this weekend.
“They should be extremely proud of the conduct and candour of their community clubs which are led by their club President and Secretary and their volunteer committees and working groups as they are the true champions of their sport.
“They give tirelessly day on day, week on week to provide an environment to the wider community to set milestones, achieve goals, build friendships.”