“We’re the governing body for football in a very historic county with about 6,000 football teams from pro and semi-pro clubs right down to the grassroots level,” says Simon Gerrard, the Lancashire FA’s CEO. “Our remit covers four main areas: governance, culture, innovation, and growth.
“The North West is the hub of football in this country and we’re unpinned by some fantastic professional football clubs with community setups who do some amazing work, a thriving national league system, and a strong grassroots game,” he adds. “We’re proud of that history.”
Having fostered the growth of a nascent sport in the 19th century, the Lancashire FA operated within the historic boundaries of the county, enveloping everywhere from Barrow-in-Furness to Manchester and Liverpool, making it the largest county FA in the country
Tasked with promoting and developing grassroots football across the North West, it runs various county cup competitions and is currently searching for a new Non-Executive Chair of the Board of Directors to help lead the organisation into the future. A voluntary position, the role involves supporting the FA’s efforts to increase football’s reach to a wider audience.
“While we’re proud of our heritage, the game also has to evolve and we have to make sure football is fit for purpose,” says Simon, from Preston. “Especially when it comes to EDI (equality, diversity, and inclusion) spaces, we have to ensure people don’t encounter barriers and that the association is representative of the demographics of Lancashire.
“We’re here to make sure everyone has the opportunity to take part in football and we’ve seen participation increases in walking football, youth football from under-7s to under-21s, women’s football, and disability football for people with protected characteristics,” he adds. “We want to make a difference and football has the power to do so much good, it just needs to be harnessed.”
Having worked at the Lancashire FA since 2018, Simon has been at the helm during the tumultuous two-year period during Covid, admitting that the pandemic hit them hard.
“From a playing point of view, it was really difficult - we decided to stop football before Christmas in 2020 which went down like a lead balloon, but the decision needed to be made to ensure people didn’t lose their lives,” he says. “It was difficult but we tried to do the right thing.
“However, the amount of work that went on in football from pro clubs to the grassroots was phenomenal,” Simon adds. “It was humbling because football really united across the county and it’s a hugely rewarding job.
“I played football on the parks of Preston, at North West counties level, internationally with the partially-sighted England squad, and as manager of Preston’s women’s team, so being able to play a part in moving the organisation forwards gives me a lot of pride.”