Starting a football club can be a daunting prospect. As well raising funds, attracting players and securing a permanent home for your new club, there is also the matter of FA affiliation to attend to. While there are several prerequisites to affiliating with the county FA, doing so can deliver several benefits to your fledgling team.

Whilst there is a lot to be said for a friendly game of football with jumpers for goalposts, nothing delivers the camaraderie and community spirit like the formation of a new club. A well-run football club gives children and young people focus, a sense of belonging and something to concentrate their efforts on. It can also be the springboard for illustrious careers in the professional game.

To deliver a safe, respectful and professional playing environment, however, FA affiliation is probably the best course of action. There are a few hoops to jump through, but the benefits make the extra work well worth it.

The first steps to FA affiliation

Not every club is suitable for FA affiliation, and you should ask yourself whether your team or club is ready. Do you have enough players to regularly field a first 11 and substitutes, as well as a few players in reserve? Does your team have enough adult volunteers involved for coaching and administration duties? These are basic prerequisites for FA affiliation.

Before making your application, you should read the FA’s rules, as your own club will be required to operate within them. You will need to devise a club constitution, and you’ll need to appoint a chairperson, a secretary and a treasurer. Your club must also have a welfare officer – responsible for pastoral care and the general well-being of players. All of the volunteers within your club must also submit to a criminal record check.

Rules surrounding fixtures

It is incumbent on all club chairpersons to be aware of the rules before a ball is kicked. Your fixtures will be arranged by the County FA or the local organisation responsible for the administration of your league. If your team is playing at home, it is the club secretary’s responsibility to arrange and pay for pitch hire, and to inform the opposition of the venue. Each competition will have specific rules on kick-off times, but it is the secretary’s responsibility to inform the away team what that is for each home fixture.

Every league and cup match you play in will have rules regarding the registration of players. Unfortunately, players can’t just arrive on a Saturday morning and walk straight into your team. They usually need to be registered with the competition organisers at least 24 hours before kick-off time. From the moment a player steps onto a pitch, that individual must be covered by personal injury insurance.

Local leagues and competitions have their own general rules on discipline on a day to day basis. However, penalties and formal disciplinary procedures will be administered by your County FA. Similarly, the County FA will have the final say on disciplinary issues relating to the fielding of ineligible players. It is ultimately the club secretary’s responsibility to ensure every player who enters the field of play has been registered according to FA guidelines.

The application process

Once your club has arranged the regular use of a pitch, joined an affiliated league, bought equipment, secured a kit and has the necessary volunteers in place, affiliation to the FA can now be completed online. Registering with the FA the first time requires that some detailed information on your club and the individuals within it is submitted.

  • Details of your main ground and the local authority that owns it
  • The contact details of the club secretary, chairman, treasurer and welfare officer
  • The details of every team within your club, which will include:
    • Team names
    • Age group
    • Gender (under15s and over cannot be mixed)
    • Type of football
    • The day of the week the team plays league matches
    • Sponsor name
    • League name
    • Kit colours
    • Away kit colours
    • Head coach name
    • Emergency contact details
    • Home ground details
    • Payment of affiliation fees
    • Details of public liability insurance
    • Details of public injury insurance
    • Cup competition entry
    • FA Charter Standard club coaches

Your club will also need to provide the county FA with full details of every coach and volunteer within your club, as well as their coaching credentials and CRB certificates. This entire process must be completed once a year, and the FA must be notified of any changes immediately.

The FA affiliation process is not there to make the life of clubs at grassroots level more difficult. It is in place to ensure that children and young people have safe and constructive environments in which to play football. If you can satisfy all the FA affiliation criteria, you’ll know you have a well-run club that is playing an important role in your local community.