UK football community projects tackle great challenges that range from alleviating knife crime to educating vulnerable people about serious diseases yet almost all organisations are trapped by an irrepressible burden - paperwork.
From CRB checks on staff to basic accounting, community football project leaders across the country are faced with a mountain of admin to keep their dreams alive every day. Many projects fold as time-pressed sportspeople, often juggling their community responsibilities with a busy day job, struggle under the weight of off-the-field duties.
However, a new software application created by the Football Foundation is looking to remove some of the pressure around these responsibilities.
Upshot, designed in-house by the foundation but shared with grassroots projects at a minimal cost, has been specifically created with the task of making administration painless.
It allows funders, local authorities, sports clubs and charities to hold participants records, manage sessions and activities, and assess the success of a coaching programme.
“The decision was easy – if we need this, so do others, so rather than create a bespoke program let’s create a marketable application which will benefit everyone in the third and public sectors ,” says Diane Farmer, Upshot Partnership Manager at The Football Foundation.
“The fact is that community groups perceive the paperwork and admin to be a serious overhead – some will even choose not to make funding applications to avoid getting tied down.
”Funders and commissioners frequently require wildly different information to be collated by the same organisation and recently ‘proof of impact’ has become increasingly requested which is effectively asking community groups to evidence societal level change.”
The application has had good take up since its launch with grassroots organisations including Haringey Sports Development Trust which uses sport to improve social welfare and create films and music; Haringey Sports Development Trust led by the former Bradford City star, and Oldham Community Leisure which offers leisure facilities in towns within Greater Manchester. All have benefitted from a reduction in back office burden after using the app.
Adam Keane of Oldham Community Leisure said: “Upshot is helping us to capture detailed information about the groups we’re reaching and whether we really are converting the previously inactive. We find it easy to use and enjoy linking media files such as photos to otherwise just quantitive data.”
The Football Foundation has also inked a deal whereby high street bank Barclays is providing all recipients of its sustainability funding for sports development the application. As a result, several professional clubs’ community arms – including Middlesborough and Coventry City – have begun to use Upshot.
Farmer explains that many community projects find it difficult to track the impact of specific projects and the app helps to address this. “There’s no need to wait for a project to finish before they determine how it went – if one is failing, they can offer instant support to turn it around,” she says.
It is a feature of the system that has attracted another Upshot enthusiast, Michelle Page of Sport Brighton, she added: “The potential to save time, measure and track progress instantly will drastically improve the level of service we can offer our users. This will allow us to be more responsive to trends and seeing instantly what is and is not working. There are also great tools for feeding back the information to key stakeholders.”
The foundation hopes Upshot can create a network of users who are able to easily exchange data.
Ultimately, the Football Foundation’s aim is simple. “We want coaches and deliverers to spend more time on the pitch or the courts giving more kids the opportunity to improve their skills and achieve more,” says Farmer.
Upshot remains an innovative idea that works for a community often overlooked by technology developers as it is not at the lucrative end of the market. With the administration put to bed, the Football Foundation will be hoping that coaches can get back out on the pitch where they belong.
Tags: Community, Community Matters, Football Foundation, Upshot