ESFA Council Leavers- Mike Spinks and Owen Aiston

With the season coming to an end, the ESFA says goodbye to two long serving members of Council, Mike Spinks and Owen Aiston.

All at the ESFA thank them both for their hard work and dedication to the Association and for their substantial contributions to Schools’ Football both nationally and locally.

Below are some tributes written by their fellow council members:

Mike Spinks ( Essex CSFA)

To most of us Mike Spinks has been around for many years and has been totally committed to the service of schools’ sport. He has travelled the world watching football, cricket, rugby and no doubt international tiddlywinks – if there is sport to watch, Mike is there often with his wife, Heather, in tow.

For many years Mike served the schoolchildren of Essex as a teacher and head teacher as well as being heavily involved in the sporting communities. He has held numerous roles but in the football sphere he served Essex as Vice Chair from 1996 until 2006 when he took over the Chair until 2014. In the meantime he had served as a Council Member of the ESFA from 1998-2003 when he became an employee of the ESFA as the National Competitions Manager, an important role as the ESFA portfolio was expanding exponentially. Mike retired from this post in 2013 and returned to his position as a Council Member representing the South East area. In 2014 he took over as Chair of the ESFA and remained in post for two years, whilst the search for a new CEO was in place. During this time he was also invited to the Danone World Championships which happened to be held in Brazil – surprise, surprise he was able to add another world famous ground, the Maracana, to his tally (which includes all EFL and PL teams).

Now having more time on his hands, he also took on the roles of ESFA representative on the FA Council, where he has served with aplomb and earned the respect of many in the game; and also the secretarial role with the Schools’ International Board (SAFIB), where he has been instrumental in ensuring the countries of the British Isles and the Republic of Ireland have developed their international programmes for boys and girls, including the introduction of a new competition for U14 girls at Lilleshall in October.

The ESFA has had its voice well heard at FA headquarters as Mike has been a member of the National Game Board, the Youth Participation Committee and also Vice Chair of the Disability Football Committee. Again, he has been able to use his skills to ensure fair play for the many people so often seen as unrepresented within football.

As you can imagine, his skills and knowledge are wide and varied and he has been a tremendous servant and ambassador to Schools’ Football throughout his career. Those who have attended former South East indoor 5-a-side finals that he has organised at Norwich over the years, will understand the impeccable attention to detail in which Mike excels. A mention of Norwich (City FC) hints at Mike’s approach to football – it is for fun and enjoyment for all even though the outcomes are not always as he would have desired!

I am sure that Mike will enjoy his retirement, though I am also unsure if he will be able to break away completely, especially after accepting the role as Chair of Norfolk County Schools’ FA last year. Working with Mike has been a real pleasure.

Written by- Dave Woollaston (ESFA Council Member and Trustee)

Owen Aiston (Northumberland SFA)

As football activities draw to a conclusion, we can all look forward to a well-earned rest, ready to charge our batteries in preparation for next season and many will be preparing for AGMs. At the end of this season however, following the ESFA AGM and the final Council meeting on 9th July, long serving North Region Council Member Owen Aiston, will be leaving Council after 12 years of dedicated service.

Owen joined the ESFA Council in 2010, bringing with him an outstanding track record within football generally, but particularly within Schools’ Football. Owen had worked for NUFC in their Academy in 1997. He had been Team Manager of a very successful Newcastle City Boys’ team from 1989 – 2000; was team Manager of Northumberland County under 16 Boys (1995-2009) – winning the National Inter County Trophy in 1995-96 – as well as being a highly respected member of the Northumberland County Schools’ FA, being Chair in 2016/17. He had also spent 17 years during his summer breaks, coaching football in North America at Major League Soccer Camps, eventually becoming Director of Coaching from 1992 – 2002. During these years he travelled to over 25 States.

Owen has the UEFA ‘B’ Coaching Licence, is still a practicing coach and holds the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Advanced Licence (an equivalent to The UEFA ‘A’ Licence). He continues to be proud of his early coaching experiences with the likes of Shola Ameobi (NUFC); Michael Carrick (West Ham Utd); Robbie Elliott (NUFC); Fraser Forster (NUFC & Tottenham Hotspur); Michael Chopra (NUFC); Steven Taylor (NUFC); Peter Ramage (NUFC) and Jamie Bolam (Bolton Wanderers).

On joining Council, Owen immediately used this extensive experience and in-depth knowledge of the game to positively impact many Council decisions. He became very pro-active as a Council member, being regularly seen at various National events, including Finals and Internationals. In his time on the EFSA Council, he has chaired the Competitions; PR & Community; International and latterly the Representative Committees.

Owen’s enthusiasm, commitment, diligence, rigorous approach and attention to detail have all resulted, over the years, in him accompanying the England Schoolboys’ and Schoolgirls’ International Teams on 7 overseas training camps in Europe, several Girls’ Camps, numerous Internationals at home and abroad, countless national finals and 4 Danone World Cup events including a highly successful New York final in his year as ESFA Chairman in 2017-18. During his year as Chair, he attended all National Finals, travelling over 18,000 miles in the process.

Following his season as the ESFA Chair, he became Chair of SAFIB where he again used his diplomacy, tact, experience and people management skills to compliment his tenure. In 2016 he was introduced to the late Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip, in the Garden of Buckingham Palace. Following the introduction and from observation, The Duke was overheard to remark that it was obviously a while since Owen had played football!
Owen’s organisational skills, recording and attention to detail are legendary. Examples of this can be borne out by those who have worked alongside him, particularly during the recent England v Scotland International at Spennymoor Town FC, Durham and the hugely successful Home Nations International Bob Docherty Tournament for U15 Girls at Cochrane Park, Newcastle.

Owen’s resignation from Council leaves a huge void; nevertheless, his approach also leaves behind the ‘standard’ as a blue print for future Council Members to aspire to. Equally, his recommendations to Trustees from his extensive experience, prior to his resignation, have resulted in a more pragmatic approach to the International Programme.

Although Owen is stepping aside from ESFA Council, he has already committed to assisting with future events within the North Region, planning his involvement around the next chapter in his football life.

Owen will be working next season, within the North of England, as a Football Scout Consultant/Advisor with Crystal Palace FC, working alongside his son, field-testing a revolutionary, electronic based, analytical programme which will enable ‘on-field’ data to be instantly transmitted via scouts’ tablets and laptops. He also hopes to complete his Level 2 Talent Identification qualification.

Owen was awarded with Life Membership of the ESFA at the recent AGM, as thoroughly deserved recognition for his enormous contribution to Schools’ Football nationally. Council colleagues will be holding a farewell dinner for him and other colleagues who leave Council this season, following the AGM.

We wish Owen every success in his new role, thank him for his years of dedicated service and look forward to meeting and working with him once again in the future.

Written by Alan Johnston ( ESFA North Council Member)

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