Discussions underway over future volleyball programmes
12th May 2017
On Cup Finals weekend in early April, long after the final ball had been served on Saturday, one group of volleyballers were still burning the midnight oil at a nearby hotel, engaged in ongoing discussions about the immediate future for volleyball in this country.
Since the restructure of Volleyball England (VE), the Technical & Talent (T&T) sub-group has been tasked with determining how best to manage the numerous initiatives within its remit in a more cost-effective manner.
This area of VE operations encompasses the senior men’s and women’s squads, as well as the juniors and cadets. The group also looks after representative squads for sitting and beach volleyball at senior and age group levels. And if that weren’t enough, it also holds responsibility for developing our top cadre of national and international referees and coaches as well as overseeing the development pathways for all coaches and officials.
The current economic climate means that difficult decisions must now be made in this area. Unsurprisingly, it a hugely emotive area for people who have devoted years to helping develop the sport in this country.
Gillian Harrison, Technical & Talent Coordinator at VE, explained: “We are now operating within very different financial circumstances compared to previous years. Across the T&T group, we all acknowledge this fact and while we are working hard to deliver the most comprehensive programmes we can, we know we cannot continue as before. We have to cut costs now, while also forming a long-term view of how we want our programmes to look in the future, and we have to get much better at prioritising the initiatives that we do want to continue funding.”
In providing VE with their next instalment of grant funding, Sport England have been quite clear in stipulating this is to be spent on the core market. While the talent development pathway is deemed a core market consideration, none of the Sport England money can be used to fund senior representative squads. Of that grant funding, a percentage has been earmarked for T&T activity – although this will also have to cover the staff and venue hire costs related to T&T activities.
As the T&T meeting finally closed late on that Saturday night, several of the group’s members were tasked with planning reshaped programmes in their particular area of operations and finding new ways of funding those programmes.
Harrison continued: “During the meeting, which was primarily focused on our national squads, I think that what became clear was that small changes and tweaks to existing activities will not get us where we need to be. We need to focus on getting more value from our partnerships – such as with TASS and AASE, the scholarship funders – and from other resources available to us. There’s still money coming in for the Volleyball Futures initiative and to fund our beach pair at the Commonwealth Games and, as an organisation, we do have sources of revenue other than our Sport England grant. Nevertheless, we still need to get more creative about tapping into new revenue streams and we need to re-engage with the regions to work alongside them on junior development.”
That commitment to finding new funding streams is reflected across all of Volleyball England’s operations, not just T&T. With an additional income generation target of at least £200,000 per year now in place, the governing body is keen to investigate any new commercial arrangements, further sponsorships or partnerships which may deliver the funding required for more extensive programmes.
The scale of existing activity (13 squads and over 40 coaches) may come as a surprise to some. The junior and cadet programmes, for example, feature almost 100 players who attend training camps on a monthly basis. This represents a significant cost in terms of venue hire, transport, accommodation and coaching. With this in mind, an immediate decision was taken to cancel the next two junior open trials sessions which were scheduled to run alongside the training camps.
Harrison concluded: “The T&T group faces the awkward triple challenge of being obliged to honour certain existing commitments, while making immediate savings elsewhere and formulating a long-term strategic plan. They’re all committed to doing this though. Everyone wants to maintain as much of the impetus of the past few years as possible. No-one is walking away; they’re all too invested in our sport. There are going to be some painful decisions to be made but they are decisions we can put off no longer.”