Mark Winder is stood holding a blue goalball and black eyeshades. He is smiling for the camera and wearing a blue Goalball UK top.

Catch up on Mark’s talk from the beginning of the 2023 Goalball UK AGM

You, the people in the goalball community are the most important asset we hold.

We are in the midst of planning discussions regarding our new 2024-2029 strategic plan. We will be in touch with you in the coming weeks for input and comment, however let us reflect on the progress we continue to make.

For clarity, in the main I will talk about the financial year April 2022 to March 2023.

Sport England funding

This was our first year of the new funding cycle with Sport England. In partnership, we identified a range of priorities for the next five years to support Sport England’s ‘Uniting the Movement’ agenda. This has resulted in over a 40% increase in investment to Goalball U.K. from Sport England (2022-2027). This funding includes us appointing two new roles to the organisation.

First, a Digital Communications Lead, Jo Hercberg. This position has allowed us to grow our presence within the sight loss and sports sectors; as well as improve the information we are able to provide you, our people. This is an evolution and compared to many larger sporting organisations we have a long way to go. However, progress has been significant.

We also appointed a Fundraising Manager in December 2022, Charlotte Rooke. This post will help us to make a greater impact in supporting people who are blind or partially sighted in a number of ways.

We are focusing on a variety of funding opportunities including children and young people, The home nations and developing and growing our volunteer numbers. Both are key appointments to support the long-term sustainability of Goalball U.K.

This funding has also led to significant work you as members do not always feel the impact of such as:

  • The development of our organisational health. There is an expectation our level of reporting and governance measures are equal to all other NGBs, some much larger than ours.

Examples of ongoing work in this area are:

  • People Plans
  • Diversity, Inclusion Action Plan
  • Environmental and Sustainability Plans
  • Safeguarding work
  • Meeting the Sport England Governance Code

All are crucial for the ongoing sustainability of our sport.

As said last year we were entering a period of change. We are now in it, and much work has gone, and is going into, making sure we are ready to take goalball into a new chapter.

We have a system role

It was agreed we will, as part of our systemic role within the sector, ‘recover and reinvent in a post pandemic world and will continue to use goalball to transform the lives of people who are blind and partially sighted.

The developments have been numerous.

However the main focus has been welcoming people back to the sport.

We are aware clubs are facing challenges and we are committed to ensuring as many people can play our sport and be part of the goalball community.

We have further established and strengthened our role within the sport and disability sectors as an insight leader and champion of people who are blind or partially sighted.

We have started research work in partnership with York St John University.

We are excited to be supporting the sport and physical activity ecosystem in reducing the barriers to participation and improving the life chances for people who are blind or partially sighted…irrespective of ethnicity, age, gender, sexuality, location, or socioeconomic status.

We also have a governing role

We are continuing to further establish and strengthen our influence within the sport and disability sectors as an expert deliverer, insight leader and champion of people who are blind or partially sighted.

We are committed to creating a strong, challenging (unafraid) learning and insight framework specific to our people, their experiences, barriers and motivations. This year we introduced a framework to measure learning and progress.

We continue to develop our Safeguarding work, and pleasing progress has been made in relation to our policies and procedures. We also provided several online courses for clubs ensuring they are better placed in this area. Like the entire sector, this is still an area for attention, and we are implementing improvements which are being informed, in part, by the Whyte Review.

We are also mindful of ensuring our sport has as little impact on the environment as possible and introduced changes to our practices and delivery methods. This will be developed as we work on our Environmental Policy and consequential action plan.

We are particularly proud of our ‘Find the Next’ programme, supported by Sports Aid, which is provided opportunities for children and young people, as well as coaches who wish to develop. The funding for this came to an end in April 2023. However, we are confident we can find the support to continue this work which we know tackles inequalities.

We continue to provide opportunities to our talented young players and are pleased goalball academy players and coaches are progressing into this programme.

Our ‘Youth Forum’ continues to develop and is allowing us to hear the voices of our younger members. In September this year they climbed Mount Snowdon, as a fundraiser,  and much work has gone into this trip. £3k towards the Summer Camp next year.

We continue to deliver a strong Competition Structure

It is the envy of other paralympic sports.

We ensured covid measures remained in place throughout the season.

There has been a lot of positives and a lot of learning as we strive to continue the development of the competitive experience for our people. We know there are changes we need to make, and these are in development. We remain proud of the structure and the opportunities we present.

The Goalfix Cup is now supported by U.K. Sport, who are helping us to improve the presentation of our events as both a live experience and through digital streaming. The past two at Brunel and Worcester Universities have been a great example of our progress.

Like many sports many clubs are facing a difficult time financially. We endeavour to continue supporting you. It is also pleasing to note new clubs are being developed to support the continued demand to play. Is it enough? NO. We are mindful of this and are seeking ways to further support you our clubs.

We need to continue to support clubs in recruiting and helping coaches to develop. In order to do so, we need to develop resources for our coaches across the sport. We have entered into a partnership with a digital platform who are helping us to develop a range of resources which will be launched by the end of the year and  continue beyond

Our national teams continue to progress

The Women competed in their first IBSA Goalball World Championships for over a decade and finished a creditable 7th place. The progress of the team continues.

The Men continued their upward trajectory finishing fourth in the IBSA Goalball European B competition.

We are committed to supporting our High-Performance athletes and as a result have employed a High-Performance Lead to strengthen the programme. Gary Fraser is working with the support of the board and alongside the coaches, athletes and stakeholders to develop the next chapter of the journey for our Great Britain teams.

In August this year (2023) (although out of the reporting period) both teams competed in the IBSA World Games in Coventry.

We spent a huge amount of time preparing for the home games in order to ensure there were benefits to the whole organisation mapped against our strategic obsessions.

There were many benefits to the games and much publicity around our sport locally, regionally and nationally. We are also hopeful it will help to develop new clubs in the West Midlands.

Looking forward

We have just started our new season and I hope it is as successful as previous. Please enjoy, please remember our spirit of play and please continue to tell people about our wonderful sport.

We are  highly dependent upon the large numbers of volunteers who help with every area of the sport….

If we are to continue to develop the only way is by empowering more of  you the help us to strengthen and develop greater capacity.

Finally, I would like to repeat my thanks to the entire Goalball community for your enthusiastic, supportive attitude throughout our journey.

So thank you to everyone involved in goalball, no matter what your role is.

Thank you to our Board, Staff, volunteers, players and supporters.

Mark Winder, CEO, Goalball UK.