Cardew’s Cornish challenge

As one of the longest serving Football Development Officers in the country, Phil Cardew is not short of passion for the game in his home county of Cornwall.

Now into his 15th year with the Cornish FA, he has seen a number of changes and improvements to the game in the south-west during that time, in areas such as women and girls’ football, disability football and refereeing.

In one of the most rural areas of the country, Cardew knows that the grassroots clubs in the region have to work harder to provide organised football for youngsters and adults alike.

Phil Cardew of the Cornwall FA.

Phil was among the first batch of Development Officers to be appointed around the country

And he believes the County FA have to match that commitment to ensure the sport continues to thrive in an area which is more often associated with rolling coastal hills, summer holidays, surfing, cream teas and delicious pasties.

“We’ve got challenges as a county because we’re very rural, but we feel we’re holding our own in terms of team recruitment and retention on the youth side of things which is very positive,” said Cardew.

“But there’s been so many drastic changes over the time that I’ve been here, with more and more funding being made available.

“We’ve really seen the progression with an increase in staff at the County and I don’t feel that The FA are given enough credit for what they do for the counties. 

“With the staff we’ve got here, we cover a real range of the game and I’ve seen the changes within grassroots football.”

And Cardew is quite rightly excited by the latest project that is being undertaken in Cornwall to provide a link between junior and adult football at a local level.

With funding from Sport England as part of the London 2012 legacy project Sportivate, Cardew and the Cornwall FA have overseen a successful U19s league in the mid-eastern part of the county, with plans to extend it further.

There are 16 teams currently involved, with the league offering flexibility to all of the clubs in order to suit the players and their lifestyle or work commitments and thus preventing the increasing drop-out of players in this age group.

“One of our major projects is around tackling the drop-out of young adults in football and we’ve come up with the U19s league in conjunction with Sport England and the Cornwall Sports Partnership,” he said.

“We’ve piloted the project over the last three years and now have funding for the next three years.

“It’s very flexible and gives the players the chance to play when it suits them and their lifestyles.

“That could be on a Saturday or a Sunday, we’ve had games kicking-off on Sunday evenings for instance, so it’s been very successful as it’s a programme which suits young people’s lifestyles.”

A volunteer paints the lines on a local football pitch.

Cardew is keen to place great importance upon football volunteers in Cornwall

It is an area of the game where The FA has been keen to support, with the Just Play campaign earlier this year urging adults to get back into the game.

And Cardew hopes that the success of this league can lead to more players filtering into adult football and even onto coaching or refereeing.

“The main reason for it is to get people playing football,” he added. 

“The FA are very keen to do this and it helps the players who might not be quite ready for adult football to bridge that gap.

“We’ve got to come up with something different as a governing body, as the drop-out rate is quite alarming.

“With the ever-changing lifestyles of young people, we’ve got to adapt to that and by introducing this league we have done.

“It means the senior adult clubs can benefit and take players within their squad for training purposes, but if they’re not involved on matchdays, they can get more game time with the U19s side.

“It’s done in a Champions League style format, which makes it a bit different from the usual 28-game season so it’s an exciting project for us.”

The topic of flexibility in football is one which Cardew feels particularly strongly about, especially in an area which has traditionally been rugby dominated.

And he knows how important volunteers are to the game and makes sure the Cornwall FA is always keen to work with the players, parents and anyone else involved in the game.

“At the County FA, I’m keen to see that the volunteers in the game are given the right level of support,” he revealed.

“We feel pretty strongly that we need to work with them to fit football into their lifestyle because without them, football doesn’t run really.

“So if that means meeting them at 8pm on a Monday evening, we will do. 

“These people put so much of their own time into the game and it’s good to try and support them as much as we can.”

You can find more details on the Cornwall FA by clicking here to visit their website. 

For more details on the Sportivate initiative click here.