IT'S easy to exist in a comfort zone in sport where you can ease in and out of, year in and year out telling yourself everything is fine.

For that reason checks and balances are imperative in helping separate reality from fiction, especially when it comes to running organisations.

The Napier City Rovers are delighted to have received New Zealand Football's tick of approval after receiving a one-star "developing club" Quality Club Mark award ( 2016-18) this week.

"We've always set out to do things in a professional way so what this award does is endorse what we have been doing largely as we've achieved the objectives that New Zealand Football have set out as requirements," says Rovers president Barrie Hughes.


Hughes says the exercise was "interesting" in that it showed some cracks within the organisation.

"That's the great thing about it because it shows ways in which things can be improved so that's enabled us to plug those gaps to win the award."

The club's intentions were to strive for professionalism from day one when they amalgamated in1973.

"This is just the manifestation of that, you know, when we had Colin Stone here," he said of Stone, the former club commercial/general manager who went on to become Sport Hawke's Bay CEO before moving to Wellington to become performance consultant for community sport with crown agency parent body Sport New Zealand this time last year.

"It's a hard act to get out of now because that's the way we do things," says Hughes who sees the NZ Football award as a benchmark.

He likens it to how hard it is to make it into the English Premier League only to find it's even harder to remain there.

"They don't just give you the quality mark and you just walk away with it but it's actually something NZ Football audit so it's a commitment for a club to keep if it wants to go further to develop into two or three stars when the criteria are known."

Rovers chairman Russell Booth says the club had appointed a junior co-ordinator, Dean McKirdy, to help establish pathways to registration, club days, gear and what information to disseminate to parents.

"At the end of the day parents have a choice in regards to what they want to spend their money on and what their kids are going to do so it really comes down to value for money," says Booth of the club that has provided the platform for the most elite level of the code in the province.

When parents hear their children are enjoying it then there's a sense of willingness to pay for it not just money but time and effort.

"The kids enjoy it but the parents also see that it's organised as well."

The bigger picture, Booth says, is around a life-long plan of football and have them gravitate around it.

"We want them to stay with Rovers but as long as they stay in football, that's the ultimate aim," he says, emphasising the club doesn't just provide a service but also a product.

Raising the profile of women's football is vital for a club that once dominated that arena but in the past decade have faded.

"It's probably got us focusing on teams that we probably haven't done in the past. You know, as Barrie says, you think you're doing a good job but when something like this comes along you look at everything you're doing."

The other crucial factor for Rovers has been the recruitment and retention of volunteers, not just at governance level but on a day-to-day basis.

"I think we're lucky that we have good volunteers but how do you go about attracting them, who is in charge, who asks questions and does the shoulder taps," he says, mindful when people assume someone else is doing something and it never gets done.

People often talk about "the good, old days when clubrooms were full" but times have changed.

"A lot of people want to be involved in a club but all they want to do is play football," he says, believing it is prevalent across all codes.

"With the proliferation of more sports, like orienteering and canoe polo, becoming popular there's more choices so we have to be on our game to attract people and keep them not just as players but volunteers."

The quality mark infrastructure draws attention to factors that can hinder or enhance success but it's not just the first team.

"It's not always about winning leagues and cups but keeping players in the same team for a number of years because they love the club and its culture.

"If you can keep players involved it's great but if you can keep people involved as members of the club then that's more important," says Booth.

In presenting the award to Hughes and Booth on Wednesday, Central Football CEO John McGifford said the award recognised the club's structure and its governance.

The one-star rating, McGifford said, showed the Rovers had the right qualities and capabilities from its higher governance of the board to the grassroots with the necessary infrastructure around it.

With 170 clubs in the federation only five had achieved that status.

"Our emphasis in moving forward is to get more members as accredited clubs.

"I think it's wonderful that clubs such as Rovers, a very well-established club, are keeping an eye on how to improve things," says McGifford.