‘A REAL football man’ who says the sport itself runs through his veins. A former professional player with two decades of community sports development behind him. A manager with three consecutive senior Muratti wins under his belt.
David Kennedy: A shoe-in for the top job at the Jersey Football Association.
Unveiled as the governing body’s new chief executive from this summer, Kennedy was a picture of delight this week as he contemplates a future dominated by a game that has offered so much. His career both on and off the field has already proved fruitful. But he is not done yet.
The Jersey under-21s boss will step away from the sidelines and into the engine room of the JFA in April with a clear plan in mind. His efforts will build on the sturdy foundations built by current incumbent Jean-Luc Desbois and Neville Davidson before him and he wants to take the sport into a new era – one that could feature a significant face lift.
‘Football’s always been in my blood,’ said Kennedy, who played for Alloa, Dunfermline and Livingston before arriving in Jersey in 2005.
‘I have thoroughly enjoyed my role as general manager at Jersey Sport and I’m proud of what I’ve been able to achieve there, but ultimately the opportunity to return to my number one sport, my passion, it’s an opportunity that really excited me. I knew in my heart I really had to go for the role.
‘My first task is to develop a vision where we can grow the game at all levels. There are great things going on around the Island but I have been open with the JFA in that I believe we are not currently delivering football for all.
‘We know there are fewer adults playing, we know there are a lot of minority groups not engaging, but we need to understand the barriers to participation a bit better and that will require us to adapt our offering.
‘Training on a Tuesday and Thursday night and matches on Saturday – that doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of modern society. Whether it’s starting games earlier or playing more summer football, we have to review what we’re doing. We need to try and reverse the trend we’re currently seeing up and down the UK with less adults playing structured football.
‘The small-sided game is growing so we need to enhance the offering to ensure that the association grows the game.’
A more dedicated approach to inclusivity for Jersey’s minority populations will also be a hot topic.
‘We have to put a robust consultation process together to enable us to engage with those communities,’ Kennedy explained.
‘As a sports development professional I’m aware of how, historically, the projects delivered have not had the necessary impact, because its users have not been engaged from the very start. People have been scratching heads asking why minority groups don’t turn up but it’s because they didn’t understand the barriers. Before we can drive forward we need to understand why people wouldn’t engage in the first place.’
And with greater involvement will come greater interest in the top level of football in Jersey. A stage now in sharper focus thanks to Jersey Bulls but still intermittently blurry for the Island’s representative outfits.
Kennedy said: ‘Bulls have filled a lot of the void by playing regularly in the UK but we need to consider the “rep” teams”.
‘We need a meaningful programme that every player aspires the play in and we will have to engage with more clubs in the UK or revisit small-nations stuff.
‘Over the years I remember some great games here – games such as Sligo Rovers spring to mind . That one captured the imagination of the Irish community and they had just qualified for the Champions League. And there was Havant & Waterlooville as well ; they had just taken Liverpool to a replay in the FA Cup the season before and they were in the National League at the time.
‘Everyone wants to see fixtures that will attract good crowds to Springfield on a regular basis.’
He added: ‘It’s great news that the women’s Muratti is back this year and the most important thing is that we use this as a platform to ensure it’s sustainable. I will be opening a dialogue with the Guernsey FA in the early days of my tenure and we will make the event bigger and better.’