The first Malta Football Association General Assembly was held at the Centenary Hall on Thursday.
Following the approval of the new Statute of the Association in July, the Annual General Meeting was replaced by the General Assembly which will be held three times a year – March/April, July/August and October/November. While the General Assembly being held in March/April will feature the election of the President and vice-presidents and the presentation and approval of the Financial Report and the one held in July/August will feature the election of the ordinary members of the Executive Board or the election of the members of the independent committees, the General Assembly being held in October/November will focus on a particular theme in relation to the implementation of the MFA strategy.
Photos: Mark Zammit Cordina / Malta FA
In fact, in Thursday’s General Assembly, apart from the Approval of the Minutes of the Annual General Meeting held on the 21st July 2021 and the Minutes of the Extraordinary General Meeting held on the 26th July 2021; the ratification of the additional ordinary members of the Executive Board for the period 2021-2023 and the election of the members of the Electoral Commission and the Member Clubs Licensing Board for 2022, the main item on the agenda was the reporting on the Strategic Objectives of the Association.
MFA General Secretary Dr Angelo Chetcuti summed up the activities of the Association over the past four months with a brief introduction before being joined by other members of the administration, all reporting to the Malta FA delegates present, the progress and updates on the various works being followed.
MFA Strategy Officer Dr Dawn Aquilina said that after the launching of the strategy in February 2021 with eight main priorities, thirteen departments are responsible for the implementation of the strategy with the support of the UEFA Grow. She said that UEFA is insisting with all member associations to have a definite strategy and large countries like Spain and Russia have launched their strategy at the same time as Malta.
Due to difficulties related to implementation of the strategy by the various associations, UEFA decided to set up a working group. Seven countries were selected, including Malta. Monthly meetings were held for UEFA to monitor the situation and finally in March, a compromise was reached between the associations on a common implementation framework.
Dr Aquilina added that key performance indicators were essential to measure what was being done and that she is holding monthly discussions with the directors of the different committees with regards the actions which should be taken to reach the objectives.
She revealed that the programme Football in Schools kicks-off next week. The association will be sending a football coach to each state primary school for a one hour weekly session where they will be assisted by PE teachers.
Director of Infrastructure & Capital Projects Emanuel Cassar said that investment in capital projects was one of the major objectives of the strategy as it would improve football infrastructure. Following a €2 million investment in the MFA Training Centre at Ta’ Qali, it now has high-level training pitches with automatic irrigation and improved floodlighting in Pitch 1 which will eventually be used for official matches. The Malta FA reached an agreement with the Government regarding the investment of €6 million – €800,00 annually for eight years – which will see the replacement of football clubs artificial pitches all over the island.
Thanks to an agreement between the St Joseph Home, the Archidiocese of Malta and the Malta Football Association, works started on the St. Joseph Ground in Sta. Venera. This project will be financed by the UEFA Foundation and by the association which will be investing almost €300,000 for the installation on a new artificial turf pitch and floodlighting. The football ground will be used as one of the regional hubs for the Inhobb il-Futbol Foundation and the Football Social Responsibility. It will also be used for football teams who do not have their own facilities.
The most ambitious project, which will cost around €11 million – mainly through funds obtained by the National Development and Social Fund, will be the new National Football Centre which will be built in Ta’ Qali. This will be the home of the national teams but will also serve to attract sports tourism. The association is awaiting the permits by the Planning Authority and the tendering process for the excavation of the site will soon get underway. The project is planned to be ready in time by summer 2023 to be able to host matches from the UEFA Under-19 Championship tournament as a Category 1 Stadium.
Kurt Formosa, Chief Officer Football who heads the Administration & Operations of the Technical Centre and Fondazzjoni Inħobb il-Futbol, explained the technical development programmes and grassroots commitments followe by the Technical Centre and the newly constituted Fondazzjoni Inħobb il-Futbol.
With regards to the national teams, he said the challenges increased from various aspects due to the coordination of eight national teams, including the Women’s Under-19 national team which hosted the UEFA Women’s Under-19 mini-tournament last month. He said one of the major difficulties was to the COVID protocols, especially when dealing with local authorities. Formosa said that as from the end of November, following a scouting process and a number of trials, there will an Under-15 national team as well. He added that the association signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Malta Football Players Association over the women’s national team meant to raise the status of female players.
Two projects which are underway is the Elite Player Development – a pool of thirty players – and goalkeepers within the national teams’ pool are being invited for training sessions during the week to complement training with their respective clubs. This is made easier through the sharing of information through Iterpro.
The Club and Country insurance for players within the national team’s pool covers players who sustain injuries both when playing for the club or for the national team.
A nutrition programme for national teams is being run by four nutritionists.
With regards to coach education, the UEFA A course has just been completed and the new Grassroots Certificate (which replaces the CYF) is underway. This course which will be repeated in December has a greater focus on grassroots. Another new course is the UEFA B & C with a target audience for former national team players and players with a large number of appearances has been launched in order to keep former players in the game. The UEFA Goalkeepers B course will be held shortly. Continuous professional development courses for coaches will resume as from this season.
For 2022, new projects focusing on elite players and supporting players to move abroad will be launched. With regards to the Inhobb il-Futbol Foundation, apart from the administration of the competitions, the Regional Hubs started off this season with two hubs catering for Under-14s. These have a revolving door policy. Regional hubs for Under-12s and Under-13s will get underway shortly. Another ambitious project is the Football in Schools which should reach 30,000 children by the end of this scholastic year. Year 6s will have more intensive sessions due to the Talent Identification Programme. Another innovative project is the UEFA Playmakers with a specific curriculum for girls between the age of 5 and 8 is meant to encourage them to play the game and make physical activity.
Commercial matters were explained by the Malta FA General Secretary whereas the Association has reached and signed agreements with numerous sponsors and is in the process of a rebranding exercise being studied along with external consultants in the field of marketing. Other information on the UEFA Kit Assistance Scheme and the launch of the new electronic match-centre for live scores and data has also been presented. Click here for detailed report.
Integrity officer Dr Herman Mula explained that with regards to integrity, the Malta FA is now taking a different approach mainly by focusing directly on the educational aspect. He reiterated that the Association’s work on the subject is comprehensive and is now close to launching a new strategy for Integrity.
Dr Mula highlighted the contributing role of the Malta FA in IntegriBall Erasmus+ Project which aims to educate on the dangers of match-fixing in football focusing more on youths and women, therefore removing the misconception that youth football and women’s football are free from match fixing attempts. Together with the MFPA, the FIFPro Red Button app for reporting match-fixing attempts is being promoted during integrity tours, being held mainly for youths and women.
A Memorandum of Understanding with the Police is being discussed which will not focus only on the sharing of information but also an match operations with regards to the introduction of stewards once the proposals for amendments in the national legislation with regards to the Stadium Safety and Security are approved.
Michael van Praag, chairman of the UEFA Stadium & Security Committee, will be visiting Malta later this month to start training for MFA staff in match operations and stewarding to build a team of people who could run the match operations and stewarding with regards to safety and security in stadiums.
The Chairman of the Licensing Reform Committee Dr Peter Fenech spoke about the committee’s work over the past two years to study and propose new domestic club licensing regulations.
Following discussions within the committee, more feedback was obtained from the general public through a survey. Feedback from sixteen focus groups representing MFA Executive Committee, Licensing Board, MFA Administration, MFA Technical Centre, Coaches, Players, club and nursery administrations, Youth FA Council members, private football academies, referees, women’s football, Gozo, media, politicians and sponsors was also sought.
Dr Fenech said that it was of utmost importance that these reforms should be based on what clubs really believed what was necessary to improve their level, attract more people to the game, get more support and hence more funding and therefore a better result from the technical aspect. He said this was all a question of ownership.
The Chairman of the Licensing Reform Committee admitted that there will be difficult decisions that need to be taken but if all the majority believe they are necessary, they will be implemented.
With regards to licence categorisation, Premier League clubs would need a professional licence while Challenge League clubs would need a semi-professional licence which would have to be obtained annually. National Amateur League clubs would need to obtain an amateur licence once every two years. Clubs within amateur affiliated associations will not require a licence.
Licence criteria would be infrastructure, technical and personnel, youth development, administrative, financial and legal.
Internal consultation with strategic partners, including the standing committees of the three divisions of the National League, will be held in the coming weeks and the proposed licensing regulations will be presented to the Executive Board for approval in February. The licensing regulations would then be presented to the General Assembly for approval in March.
The new licensing regulations will become effective as from season 2022/23 other than where exemptions are provided for.
This reform will be followed by another reform with regards to licensing of football nurseries.