Steve Piggott’s been running teams for nearly twenty years, so he knows a thing or two about the grassroots tech you should be using for your club.
Here, I’d like to put forward five great bits of tech your club admin should be using to save time, heal the pain of repeating themselves every week and to bring in the money from the same players you have been chasing every season.
If you aren’t a club admin, I apologise – I may have already lost you. The next few pages are brilliant, though – they’re all about those important pre-season products. But, before you turn the page I ask one favour: please pass this article onto that person in your club whose legendary effort goes unrecognised; the one doing the thankless tasks every week. The person who gets your team through every season. Nobody really knows why they do it but they are true heroes of grassroots football.
Technology in football. VAR, Hawk-Eye, 3D, Player Cam have all had their fair share of controversy in the professional game. Perhaps VAR more than most. Just getting a proper Referee Assistant is, for many grassroots teams, class. More often than not it’s a p***ed-off or still p***ed substitute, or someone’s grandad who can’t quite keep up with play, trigger-happy with the flag but only when the ball has hit the back of their net.
VAR is meant to support football using technology to clear up those obvious human errors, but is it giving technology in football a bad name? Is technology really killing the game?
I like tech, but mainly off the field of play. I have been involved in running teams for nearly twenty years, ever since my first year at university in the early ’00s, looking to improve the efficiency of the administrative side of the game. Helping the clubs I’m involved with look and feel more professional for their members. Searching for and using technology that actually helps speed things up, my search has uncovered a load of handy tools that means football admin doesn’t get in the way of, well, life admin.
Players never know anything pre-match …
You may be lucky, but in my experience players at grassroots level think football is just a case of “turn up and play”, like a kickabout when you were twelve. They don’t appreciate the hassle of asking a squad of twenty, “are you available this week?”, “can you make training?”, “do you know where the game is?”. All of these questions are going through a team admin’s head every week, twice a week. I have recently started using Spond, and it’s a game changer. This completely FREE app covers every element of team admin across a load of different sports, simply and easily. I guarantee it will save you time – hours if not days every week. Match details don’t get lost in a WhatsApp thread of memes and stories and you can plan your training session accurately; you always know in advance that someone is off to their cousin’s/stepdad’s/sister’s wedding and you can plan for it.
Of course, no piece of technology will stop players turning up late, but it will reduce the number of excuses they have at their disposal. With Spond, all the information you put in well ahead of the match day is there in the app, 24/7. Genius.
Collecting Match Subs
Quite easily the most hated job in any team is collecting money for subs. There are a few apps out there that offer a way of paying, including Spond, Slate, FA Matchday, etc. I have actually been bypassing these and using card readers directly since 2015. I originally started with iZettle and I’m currently using SumUp. I promise you, these are money makers. Why? Players have nowhere to run when paying their subs. Even if they don’t have cash or they have lost their card, they will always have their phone on them. These readers accept contactless, as well as Apple and Google Pay, so players with smart watches can pay through that. You can even email them a receipt! It is all linked directly to the club bank account so you can print off or download an easy report to see how many payments you have collected.
If you are using direct debit payments for your annual fees, then GoCardless is fantastic at managing payments for you. It will even retry a payment request if the direct debit is missed.
Naturally they all make their money through a small % fee on all of these payment methods, which you can always charge on to the player for convenience. If you swallow the few pence per transaction I guarantee you will save hours every week chasing £5 or £10 off players who forgot to go to the cash point and your club income will improve.
Registering players …
Running a trial? Signing a player for the season? Gathering their information in one place is a nightmare. Rather than a load of emails, WhatsApp messages or entering data from some dodgy handwriting, Google Forms allows you to collect all the information for free directly into a spreadsheet.
You can create a nice looking form with the club branding on it and the questions you need answering and then just share a link. All of the answers will be automatically populated into a spreadsheet for you. You can even use add-ons to create pre-populated registration forms for players to sign and get an email notification when someone enters their details.
Sharing web links …
Sharing event information or news article on social media is tricky, and even adding a long web address to a poster or flyer looks terrible. You also never know how effective your poster has been or how many people have visited your site from it. Here is where URL Shorteners come in handy. Register for a bit.ly web address and you can even personalise the link to make it easy to remember. The best thing is that your bit.ly account tracks the clicks or visits to that link. The other thing that many people have got used to now are QR codes; there are loads of free QR Generators online, too.
Keeping your supporters up to date …
You have got Insta mastered. Your tweets are being quoted. Your content is killing it, but sending an email still looks a bit, well, crap. Sometimes you need to get a private club-related message out to your members and WhatsApp and DMs won’t cut it. An email to your players or registered parents may seem like overkill and time sapping but it’s important to send official reminders and club newsletters. There are some incredibly powerful email tools out there and a favourite of mine is Mailchimp.
It is free for up to 2000 contacts in your audience and allows you to create a professional looking email through an easy drag and drop template system. It also lets you know who has read it and how many clicks you have had. You can even personalise or segment and tag contacts to send emails directly to them alone. It also manages your database of contacts and keeps you GDPR-compliant. Say goodbye to the mass email bcc.
In the main, these handy tools are free, readily available and proven bits of technology used across a wide range of industries beyond football. Technology used at grassroots level isn’t killing the game – it’s saving it.
If you ever need any help with these or you have more tools to share, get in touch at email@example.com.