Influencing Decision Makers Guide

Here's a guide to influencing key decision makers in Wales.

There are simply not enough quality pitches for the number of football teams playing in Wales. And with the numbers playing the game at the highest ever levels, the pressure on our pitches is getting bigger.

Access to facilities is Welsh football's greatest challenge.

In 2017, we decided to speak up and take action. And we hope you can do the same. Our plan is to work with local authorities and other providers of facilities at a very local level where we can tackle localised facility issues. That work has already started in four areas of Wales.

But football clubs and community groups can play a part too. Are you a club that doesn't have access to a quality place to play? If yes, it's time to speak up to decision makers and those in positions of influence.

This guide has been designed to help you influence decision makers. If you do decide to get in touch with politicians and officials (and we hope you do), please make us aware.

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 places a statutory duty on all public bodies to work more collaboratively and sustainably to improve the wellbeing of Wales. From infrastructure planning to the delivery of health services, the 44 national public bodies in Wales must demonstrate that they are taking steps to achieve the Well-being Goals set out in the legislation. You can find more detail here: https://futuregenerations.wales/

A strategic campaign which provides evidence of improving access to community facilities is one of the many ways that we can help public bodies demonstrate their impact in achieving the objectives set out by law, whilst enabling our communities to have more opportunities to be healthy and active.

Why should I be speaking to decision makers?

  • To influence a decision that is yet to be made
  • To have a decision overturned

Here are some examples of the type of decisions you might want to influence...

  • Future pitch and changing room pricing policies
  • Standards of pitch maintenance – maybe you need to highlight the poor quality of a pitch or the need for investment in drainage, if it is always waterlogged...
  • Future planning decisions – a major new housing development can provide the opportunity to make the case for funding of much needed local facilities through a Section 106' agreement/'Planning Gain
  • Poor quality changing rooms – you might want to highlight deteriorating facilities and campaign for funding
  • Maybe you want to make a case to take over the management of a local facility or to gain access to school facilities

Who should I be speaking to?

You can raise concerns with several people:

  • Local councillors
  • Your local Member of Parliament (MP)
  • Your local Assembly Member (AM)
  • Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport
  • Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children
  • Relevant Welsh Government committees

It is important you speak to the right person. For example, sport is a devolved issue so it falls under the National Assembly for Wales rather than the House of Commons.

Local councillors

There are two different types of local councillors. There are town and community councillors who deal with issues such as community centres and village halls, and increasingly very local matters such as Christmas lights, hanging baskets, play areas and sometimes the town or community playing fields. They may also give small local grants. Your local authority should be able to share contact details.

There are also Local Authority (County) Councillors who represent a local area (otherwise known as a ward or electoral division). Again, your Local Authority is able to share details or you can check who represents your area at www.writetothem.com.

County Council Elected Members and Local Authority councillors deal with matters such as education, social services, planning, economic regeneration, museums, libraries, culture and sport.

There are a number of ways in which a councillor can help. They can:

• Contact the appropriate department, such as sport and leisure, about your issue.
• Raise your concerns with the relevant cabinet member
• Refer the issue to the council's overview and scrutiny committee. This committee is able to scrutinise the decisions of senior officers and councillors
• Raise your issue at a full council meeting

Do your research so you are able to understand a councillor's interests as well as their reputation - you might not want to be too closely associated with someone who is perceived as a 'loose cannon'! Make sure you work with the councillor responsible for the ward where your club is based as well as maybe the councillor who is the 'Lead and Cabinet Member' for Sport and Leisure. The more senior the councillor on the Council, the more likely they will be able to influence decisions and get things done!

Local officers

The officers with whom you are most likely to speak to are responsible for sport, leisure and recreation. The names of departments differ between local authorities so your issue may fall under planning and places, communities or education. You can always ring the Local Authority to find out.

The most senior officer of the Council is the Chief Executive. They are usually supported by Corporate Directors responsible for big portfolios such as education, social services, finance and assets - there are usually only 2-3 Directors. The main lead officers are Heads of Service and they can be responsible for Housing, Education, Planning, Sport and Leisure etc. It is most useful to speak to local officers well before a decision is made. You are in a position to provide accurate information to help them make the best decision.

Officers tend to be busy people so it's a good idea to be as useful as possible - e.g, put together detailed and sensible proposals which don't require further work from the officer.

Assembly Members (AMs)

There are 60 AMs in Wales. Each constituency will have five AMs representing them - these are made up of one elected, constituency AM as well as four other regional AM (the regions are North Wales, Mid and West Wales, South Wales West, South Wales Central and South Wales East).

Find out who your AMs are by checking out www.assemblywales.org or www.writetothem.com.

The National Assembly for Wales has responsibility for a number of issues including environment, health and health services, local government, sport and recreation, town and country planning. For a full list of devolved policy areas, visit www.assembly.wales

AMs can help place pressure on a local council to take action, influence decisions and gain publicity for an issue. Find out if your AM has a local newspaper column, blog, website or twitter account - they might be happy to give your issue some attention. They may also use your concerns as the basis of a question to the Welsh Government in the Senedd.

Members of Parliament (MPs)

Although Wales can now pass its own laws, it is still part of the UK and as such each constituency in Wales is represented by a Member of Parliament. To find out who your MP is, visit www.parliament.uk or www.writetothem.com.

While grassroots sport is devolved, the National Lottery and some elite sport at a Team GB level is not. MPs may also still have influence over local, devolved issues so it is worth keeping them in mind.

If you are contacting your MP however, it is good practice to copy in the local Assembly Member and Local Councillor if you have not already contacted them directly.

What are you asking for?

Politicians receive letters, calls and visits every day raising local concerns. So it is important that you are specific about what it is you want to happen and how decision makers can help you.

Making contact

To influence a politician, you can write to them, email or arrange to meet at their local surgery. You[KE1] can find out from your local council offices when the next relevant committee is scheduled and go along. Make sure you have your postcode handy as they will need to check you are a constituent. Arrange to meet the officer who will write the report for the council committee so that you can discuss your concerns.

How to influence

It is important that you put forward clear, accurate information in a calm, measured manner. You want to become known as a trusted source of reliable information.

Start by using some hard hitting facts – to catch their attention and make them realise the case for football is important and affects many people's lives.
Before approaching a politician, it's worth taking a look at their website, recent news stories, their twitter feed and their public Facebook page if they have one. You can also read their political party's manifesto. Armed with this information, it can help you put forward arguments to which they might be sympathetic.

Your job will be to help them understand how important quality football facilities are to your community. Speak their language - for example, think about how your club contributes to issues such as disability, disadvantaged children, crime prevention, health and a sense of community. The impact of football goes far beyond what actually happens on the pitch.

Storytelling is very powerful so use examples if you can of players or volunteers (be careful of naming them without the relevant permissions) who have overcome problems through their involvement at the club, who have built their confidence and self esteem...

Politicians are very busy, so give them clear, concise information – avoid swamping them with pages and pages.

Be clear about what it is you want them to do. For example, you may wish him/her to take it up with the local authority or you may want him to present your report to a committee. You do have to be specific - otherwise you may find that no action will be taken at all.

Meetings

  • Have all your facts to hand and a note of the points you want to get across
  • Takes notes or, if more formal, minutes
  • Explain why change is necessary and what support they can provide
  • If you are not able to answer questions, promise to get the information to them as soon as possible
  • Leave a note with them of your main points and arguments
  • Write to them after the meeting reminding them of their promises and answering any follow up questions.
  • Follow-up after two or three weeks and ask them what progress they have made.

Letters

  • Keep it short - long letters are less likely to be read
  • Be polite, positive and constructive.
  • Use your own words and, if you can, provide an example of how your club contributes to the community and why a quality pitch is essential
  • Offer them the opportunity to visit the club
  • Be specific about what you want them to do

Conclusion

  • Be well briefed and positive
  • Speak their language - be aware of the issues that they are passionate about
  • Avoid hostile confrontation - Welsh football must present a professional image at all times
  • Be persistent - but know when to step back. Once you've made your point, don't repeat it ad nauseam
  • If dialogue breaks down, reflect on why things are not working and consider an another approach.

Useful links

Club Solutions - http://www.clubsolutions.wales/facilities-and-equipment/ - has a useful section on Community Asset Transfer

Community Asset Transfer resources - http://gov.wales/topics/people-and-communities/communities/community-asset-transfer/resources/ – a handy list of the various organisations who can help with Community Asset Transfer

Supporters Direct – http://www.supporters-direct.org/homepage/what-we-do/england-wales Their guidance 'community right to bid', 'developing and protecting stadia' and 'community shares' might be particularly useful.

Write to them - https://www.writetothem.com/ - Makes it easy to write to the politicians who represent you, even if you don't know who they are.

If you have any further questions, please contact the FAW Trust at info@fawtrust.wales. For more information on lobbying the National Assembly for Wales, the WCVA has produced this guide http://www.wcva.org.uk/media/117433/how_to_lobby_e.pdf