English Schools FA in `Seven Heaven` as Mark Harrod Ltd renews official supplier status
Sports equipment designer and manufacturer Mark Harrod Ltd has renewed its partnership with the English Schools’ Football Association (ESFA).
The third season supporting the national governing body of school and college football as Official Goalpost Supplier sees the leading supplier once again poised to provide a host of 7-a-side goals to the ESFA’s national finals climax next May.
Before the tie-up with Mark Harrod Ltd, the Association had to assemble plastic `kit` goals to meet its requirement. “We transported them in cars and they had to be assembled every time we used them,” recalls ESFA Competitions Manager Darren Alcock. “We spent a lot of time on the morning of the event piecing the goals together, which is time we could have spent organising other aspects of our showpiece events.”
“The 7-a-side goals Mark Harrod Ltd provide come fully assembled in aluminium for greater strength, with nets and counterweights, so are good to go as soon as we arrive at the finals venue.”
Those venues are often at the elite end of the national game – Stoke City FC’s bet365 Stadium in Mark Harrod’s first season of support in 2016-2017, then Coventry City’s Ricoh Arena last year.
“We are wary of risking damage to the pitches of top clubs,” Darren adds, “so the counterweights avoid having to secure the goals with anchor pins.”
The goalposts are utilised for the ESFA’s Danone Nations Cup U11 7-a-side competitions, culminating with four National Finals, usually in May. Teams compete within the Association’s small schools, schools’ cup, girls’ schools, and inter-association (district) competitions. The fixtures progress from district, then county, to regional level before finalists battle it out for what is a memorable day for every competitor.
“The events involve thousands of children,” explains the Association’s PR and Communications Executive Sarah Kearney. “Each winning team receives Premiership tickets and last year, the winning school, sited near the Etihad Stadium, was given the Blue Carpet treatment by Manchester City FC. They were interviewed by BBC Radio and videoed – an unforgettable day for them all.”
Transportation of equipment is a key issue for the ESFA and here too, Mark Harrod Ltd’s partnership with the Association comes into its own. Under their support for the U11 Danone Nations Cup national 7-a-side competitions, the company has one of its van fleet on standby to ferry goals, as well as cornerposts, to the finals venue. “Vans are large enough to hold the goals fully assembled,” explains Mike Bugajski, Mark Harrod Ltd Head of Sales, “so they arrive ready to roll out at the venues.
“Finals for all four competitions are staged simultaneously, following division of the venue pitch into quadrants. The ESFA needs at least eight in one place therefore and that’s when transport is critical,” Mike says.
The 2019 climax holds special significance, Sarah adds. “The winners of the Inter-association tournament from both this season (2018) and next will compete in Barcelona at the Danone World Cup Finals, along with the two winning Girls’ teams, for the first time in ESFA and Danone Nations Cup history,” she reveals.
Mike Bugajski, Mark Harrod Ltd Head of Sales, adds: “Helping young people to participate and excel at football is a great privilege, especially when we can witness them triumph in national tournaments that will prove a milestone in their sporting lives.”