Reflections from the Top

July 13, 2018 @ 0:00 UTC

Gregg Cropper is just over 6 months into the role of Chief Operating Officer (COO) for England Touch, the first paid role in the association’s history and the first National Touch Association, outside Australia and New Zealand, to appoint a paid member of staff. Amidst the frantic planning for the upcoming European Touch Championships, Gregg took some time out to reflect on his new role, and what the ETA has achieved so far this year.

"We have overhauled our National Touch Series, with a welcomed rebrand, played at 5 new venues, all within a refreshed format. Live streaming these events has also been a huge success and the reach, engagement and followers of our social media channels has increased dramatically, up by 28% up to over 50k impressions per week. Our new website is now fully mobile optimised, and includes a membership portal and online shop, with open communication channels and will be developed further to become the ‘go to’ resource centre for Touch in England.

In my role, I’ve been home based and working hard to achieve a better work/life balance than I previously managed juggling my voluntary ETA work alongside full time employment. I’m still attempting to divide my time between being a father, husband and COO, but still find myself working late into the night/early morning! 

However I’m thoroughly enjoying the additional time I’m getting to spend with my daughter Poppy, which I wouldn’t get in a 9-5 job. Tuesday morning swims and occasional lunchtime trips to the park are our time to have some extra fun together and a welcome break from ETA business.

 That said, I’m in final stage discussions to get some office/desk space at Sportcity, in amongst numerous other NGBs, Manchester City Council and the area's County Sport Partnership, which I’d look to utilise a couple of days a week. This would give me a more structured week, maintaining better work hours along with a great opportunity to network. 

Some huge steps forward...

Our Plans | New Schools Touch Development officers have recently been appointed and a strategy and framework in which they will be looking to implement and work within over the coming year has been developed. This document sets out 10 goals, reasons why, along with timelines we are aiming for. Schools tool-kits, interactive forums, Teacher CPD and downloadable resources all form part of the work being done in this area.

Our Board | We have a more diverse board, including a number of independent non-executive directors, resulting in more effective decision making based on a diversity of views. Both our non and executive board is now nearly full, with 11 of the 12 positions occupied by individuals with a wealth of knowledge in the sector. 

Our Partners | We’ve re-signed our three longstanding partners in Belief, SPORTTAPE and Steeden, three brands that have become synonymous to Touch over the past 3-4 years. We have recently added Red Bull to our list of big name partners, whilst also being in final stage discussions with a number of others. 

After months of discussions, we have finalised and renewed our partnership agreement with England Rugby. This new alliance will see the ETA and RFU work together to increase participation in Touch in both organised clubs and the wider community in England, through financial investment and additional resource. 

We will see a more collaborative approach to the grassroots development of the Sport, leading into the pathways available, whilst working together on numerous projects over the coming year. This will be underpinned by increasing the number of Touch referees and coaches, and with new support for the ETA’s representative teams coming from the RFU, there will be wider pathways for players to progress all the way to the international stage.

Bhubesi Pride has recently become our first Charity Partner, and within a week of signing up with them, we’ve had some great results in terms of collaboration work with some of our members, and also great potential leads for some major investment for them too. 

Our Reach | As hosts of the 2018 European Touch Championships, I’m delighted to announce that we’ve just signed the contract with the BBC, which will see the global broadcasters live stream the European Touch Championships via their red button, website and interactive TVs, which is another huge step forward in terms of promotion and reach for the sport globally.

When we took the plunge and decided to live stream all of our elite club events this year, we wanted to give Touch the increased exposure it deserves, and it is fantastic that BBC Sport thinks that the quality of what we’ve done is good enough to be carried on their website. 

The coverage via the BBC Sport website will be available, world-wide, for all four days of the tournament. 

These Championships will play part of our overarching strategy, of reaching our ambitious vision, which is: “To influence the development of Touch, to become England’s leading recreational activity”, and having it live streamed on the BBC red button, website and interactive TVs will certainly assist this. We will use this event as a springboard to further drive participation in schools, inspiring the next generation to choose our sport.

We are in the final (calm before the storm) stages of the delivering the biggest Euros on record (20% growth on 2016) with 60+ teams from 17 countries attending the 10 available categories, ~1000 players, over 200 staff, ~100 referees, and ~35 event volunteers. 

Our Future | And finally, we have recently submitted our Sport England recognition pre-application documentation, which, if approved, will give us twelve months to apply for full recognition status. It’s felt we are at the stage in our development as an organisation that it’s worth re-exploring this process and the potential partnership, funding and wider responsibilities that go along with becoming a recognised NGB, further.  Embarking on this monumental submission follows the collaboration work done last year with the Sport and Recreation Alliance and Oneside Law, where we developed new articles of association. Using the Alliance’s templates as a starting point, along with the Voluntary Code of Good Governance too, helped us to navigate how we wanted England Touch to function. We consulted ‘A Code for Sports Governance’, and explored which areas of Tier 3 requirements we could implement in order to follow recognised best practice, being able to map over our previous constitution to analyse best fit.

This huge piece of work has brought large parts of the team together in order to show our progress and development over the years as a maturing NGB, of which I’m incredibly proud. 

A huge thanks to all those who've assisted both England Touch and myself personally, to get to where we are today,  Exciting times ahead!"

Thanks to Gregg for this personal insight.

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