Country's Longest-Serving Football Development Officer Leaves Cornwall FA


Phil Cardew joined Cornwall FA as the County FA’s first-ever Football Development Officer in August 2000 and has held the post ever since, making him the longest servant of the role across every County FA in the entire country.

Football has always been a major part of Phil’s life. He gained his coaching qualifications at an early age and coached in non-league football before linking up with Cornwall FA to deliver on mini-soccer programmes for the county’s youth players. 

Initially joining on a part-time basis, Phil’s role was made permanent when The FA announced they would be opening positions for full-time Football Development Officers across the county – and he hasn’t looked back since.

“It’s been a great journey and I’m so proud of everything we’ve achieved,” says Phil. 

“My role over these 20 years has been to help develop all aspects of grassroots football in Cornwall. So much has changed during this time but my philosophy has stayed the same – it’s always about the people. 

“It’s so important to treat clubs and volunteers in the right way, because without them our jobs simply wouldn’t exist. I’ve always tried to keep people working in grassroots football at the heart of everything we do and I’m proud to have built so many good relationships over the years. I’ve found that the better your relationship is with people, the more receptive they will be to your initiatives.

“It’s key to have a good understanding of the many issues volunteers face, because running a football club can be very challenging,” Phil emphasises. 

“During my time at Cornwall FA I’ve always been available at the end of a phone and I’m a big believer in the importance of face-to-face meetings. New technology is great but it’s so important to sit down with leagues and clubs to build relationships and get your ideas across.”

The evolution of technology has resulted in numerous changes to grassroots football in the last decade, with Phil quick to acknowledge just how much has changed in the grassroots game from a delivery, participation and administration perspective.  

“Safeguarding has changed so much during my time in the role,” he explains. 

“Compared to when I first started, there have been huge strides made with safeguarding and those changes have proved vital for the safety of the game. It’s now a major priority for every County FA and that can only be a good thing to ensure that young players can develop their game in a safe environment.

“The introduction of Charter Standard for leagues and clubs has also been a massive game-changer,” he continues. 

“This has given clubs a structure in terms of policies and guidelines and has given volunteers something to aim for. Clubs are far more likely to be sustainable if they are Charter Standard accredited and we’re proud to have some of the best Charter Standard figures and percentages in the country.”

As time has passed, people’s lifestyles have changed and many players now find it hard to balance football matches alongside other roles and responsibilities. That’s since been addressed by Cornwall FA, and as Phil explains, the County FA’s structures and initiatives have been embraced positively by the grassroots community. 

“From an adult football perspective, the culture has evolved massively because people’s lifestyles have changed. People have a lot more interests outside of football now and the drop-out rate for 14-18-year-olds was alarming a few years ago. One of the key ways we’ve addressed that is through Flexi-Football, which enables people to play the game hassle-free outside of regular Saturday and Sunday slots. 

“That’s an initiative I’m proud to have worked on; as is our ‘Step into Football’ workshops. We set those up to help up-skill the parents and volunteers standing on the touchlines every week, and it proved to be hugely beneficial.” 

“My time at Cornwall FA has given me a great career and it’s been very enjoyable. I’d like to thank everyone I’ve met and worked with along the way for making these 20 years so memorable.”

Dawn Aberdeen, Cornwall FA Chief Executive, added “Phil has been such a massive ambassador for the real grassroots game across all ages and abilities in the county over his many years with Cornwall FA.  

“He has continued to adapt and change to the ever-changing football environment whilst always remaining true to the belief of needing to supporting volunteers in clubs and leagues. His enthusiasm and positivity has also continued despite many challenges along the way and we wish him the very best as he now makes time to enjoy more things away from work and football.”