THE first female chief executive of Suffolk FA says it has always been her dream to work full-time in football.

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In her first interview since taking up her post last week, Laura Smith said she was confident of rising to the challenges ahead.

The 33-year-old said: “I am quite confident in my own abilities. I have been involved in football for many years.

“As a youngster, when I was not playing, I had a season ticket at Wimbledon before they moved to Milton Keynes, so I spent 10 years going to watch regularly and when I wasn’t watching football live I was watching it on TV.

“I have worked in sports development so I understand how county FAs function and I feel I am able to communicate with everyone.

“A big part of the role is building relationships and I am confident I can do that.”

Smith is looking to follow in the footsteps of the FA’s Head of National Game, Kelly Simmons, who is currently leading the implementation of the FA National Game Strategy, which is investing £200 million into grassroots football over the next four years, as a successful female in football administration.

After studying for a leisure management degree in Buckinghamshire, Smith worked for three local authorities leading sports development teams.

She then worked at a school in Woking, managing a school sports partnership involving 70 schools.

After the post was made redundant she managed E Teach in Camberley, Surrey, supplying fully-qualified PE teachers to mainly primary schools.

“I was there for just over a year, working with 16 different schools, before this job came up,” she said.

“I had worked with schools for a number of years and was ready to get back involved working with clubs again. I was looking for a change and it seemed the perfect opportunity for me.

“It has always been a dream of mine to work in football full-time and to have the opportunity to increase opportunities for local people to get involved with the game at grassroots level.

“I was attracted to Suffolk because it is fairly close to my home. Jobs like this don’t come up very often and you have to be prepared to move and I am looking forward to moving here,” said Smith, who is moving to Rattlesden, near Stowmarket, in January.

“When I spoke to the board at my interview they were really positive about the game in the county – there are good clubs, good leagues and good staff here. I came back and looked around the area, visiting Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds, and got a feel for the county, which is very picturesque.

“I have only been here a week, but I am really enjoying it. Everyone has made me feel really welcome.

“I am getting to know the staff and their roles and want to get a feel for the league set-up and the work we do with referees and the discipline side.

“I am looking to get out and about to meet league representatives and visit some of the bigger clubs.”

Smith took advantage of an invitation from Ipswich Town to watch the 3-0 victory over Millwall in the npower Championship last Saturday.

It was her third visit to Portman Road, after previously watching the Blues play and seeing Pink in concert.

But while keen to build relationships within the county, Smith said: “The staff here are my main priority. They have had a few months without a chief executive, so leadership really needs to be at the forefront of what I do.

“There have also been several staff changes so we need to get some stability back within the organisation.

“I want to get more of a feel for the county – the clubs, teams and referees – and focus on the set-up here, so we are in the best position we can be to meet the needs of all our customers.

“I will probably put a questionnaire together which will go out to all our customers, but I am still keen to talk to people as well.”

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