Football has long been the most popular sport in the UK, and with the success of the women's and men's home nation teams in international competitions, people of all ages and abilities have been inspired to get involved with the sport, both on and off the field. There's never been a better time to help grow the grassroots community.
If you're thinking about starting a football club, you'll find that there are many challenges to overcome, but the result could be valuable to your whole community for years to come.
This article provides an overview of the factors you should consider when starting a new football team from scratch in England – from costs to registrations and player trials. Insights from Ian Grange, Head of Facilities and Development at the Norfolk FA are also included to make sure your new team has the best possible start.
What type of team?
The first thing to consider is what type of team you want to build. Is the goal to introduce the game to children? Or are you taking your first step towards your dream of having a professional club?
While it would be nice to build multiple teams under your new club's banner, that is a goal best saved for the long-term. In the early years, it is important to focus on establishing your team in one version of the game so that resources are not stretched too thin – so before going any further, decide which format you want to play in.
Futsal, 5-a-side, 7-a-side or other short-form versions of football are great for all ages and are particularly valuable for introducing young players. 11-a-side and Sunday League should be reserved for adults.
Setting goals and expectations will make it easier to plan and make sure that your players are as committed to the club's objectives as you are.
Build an identity
The biggest decision you will make will be choosing the team's name. You'll need to officially register your team with the name you select, so it must be something unique, memorable and inspiring. Where possible, try to include the location as part of the name. This is an important element of building an identity and will help the club to become integrated into the local community.
If teams already exist nearby, obvious names may have already been taken, so don't be afraid to get creative! Perhaps consult the local community for suggestions and start building engagement with the project.
- Club crest and colours
The crest is something unique to your club so consider the community, local heritage and county emblems when coming up with ideas to make it something that your players and supporters can identify with. While you might have some ideas about how it should look, crest design should be put into the hands of an experienced graphic designer to make sure your club looks as professional as possible.
Team colours are a big opportunity to stand out from the crowd – think of Newcastle and Juventus' famous black and white stripes, Real Madrid's white, Dortmund's yellow or even Palermo's pink!
Football is for everyone, and your team should reflect this by taking opportunities to build inclusivity where possible. Football teams play a vital role in the community and showing support for different ethnicities, genders, LGBQT+ and disabilities could make a substantial difference to marginalised groups in your area.
Even if gender splits are required by The Football Association for players (mixed football is only allowed by The FA for under 18s) make sure that non-playing roles are shared among anybody who wants to be involved.
Registering your team
"Our first piece of advice in terms of setting up a new team is to align to an England Accredited affiliated club," says Ian Grange, Head of Facilities and Development at the Norfolk FA. "By doing that you will be part of an organisation that has the people, policies and processes to support you and your team's journey throughout the grassroots game. Once you have found a club to join, familiarise yourselves with the football clubs committee, and in particular find out who the chairperson, secretary, treasurer and welfare officer are."
Having created an identity, you will need to register your team with the relevant governing body. This process will vary depending on the type of competition you choose to enter. If you want to play in a league, you can only affiliate before a season starts, unless your team is aged 7-11 years old. Typically, these competitions are non-competitive and so teams can be added at additional points during a season.
For 5-a-side or anything less than full-sized, it is likely that teams will play at a specific venue and be charged a small fee (typically £5 per player, per game) throughout the season, rather than having to pay an upfront cost. There will be an expectation that your team will register enough players for the season so that you do not forfeit matches.
Small-sided and Futsal teams are encouraged to apply for Amateur FA affiliation to qualify for support, access to FA-qualified officials and eligibility for county-level competition.
Sunday League or 11-a-side teams must register with the relevant local county FA before being allowed to play matches – even friendlies. Next, you will have to apply to a local league. The requirements will vary but will always require evidence that the club has the financial capacity to complete the season. In total, both registrations will cost around £150.
To ensure the best selection of players for your squad, you will need to get the word out about your new team. Set a date for trials and announce it through social networks, other local sports clubs, advertisements and community noticeboards to reach as many people as possible. Schools, holiday clubs and after school groups such as Scouts or Brownies are good places to promote youth teams
Arrange short matches and rotate players to assess their ability in various positions and situations. You will need to recruit more players than just those who start the game. Full 11-a-side teams will require at least 20 people to allow for substitutes and cover during the season.
Ensuring you have enough players to fulfil fixtures is essential, so keep in contact with those who don't make the cut at trials – they could be valuable in the future.
For 5-a-side teams, the organisation needed is informal and many roles can be fulfilled by just one or two people. However, larger clubs must have at least three officials in their setup:
The manager is responsible for picking the team and developing the on-field performances. This includes preparing training, supporting each individual player's needs and developing tactics.
The Club Secretary will be the face of the club's off-field activities – everything from attending meetings and confirming fixture lists to arranging events. This person should be organised and confident.
The Treasurer's role is to manage the club's finances, ensuring payments are made for equipment and ground rentals as well as competition fees.
If you are short on numbers when starting out, these roles could be filled by existing players until additional people can be brought in.
In addition to these committee roles, coaching will be vital to the fortunes of your new team. Early on it may just be the manager running training sessions, but it is important to bring in people as soon as possible to help share the load. Additional coaching staff at training sessions will help players to improve their skills, build fitness and recover from injury faster.
To become qualified, coaches should all complete the online FA Playmaker and Introduction to Coaching Courses.
Coaches that are working with players who are aged 17 and under must have a DBS check and at least one member of the staff should have child safeguarding training. The FA require all clubs with youth sections to have an appointed Club Welfare Officer. The Amateur FA also provides guidance on safeguarding for under 18s.
Find out more about coaching with our guides:
Starting a football team from scratch is not cheap. It's likely that there will be some costs you even considered yet.
Put together a budget to ensure that your team can cover the following expenditures for the duration of the season:
Fees to join competitions will vary depending on the county and type of competition. Affiliation with the Amateur FA for the 2021/22 season cost £48 per club, £15 for small-sided clubs and £25 per 11v11 Team.
- Pitch hire
There are two options for pitch hire: public and private. Private hire may mean a higher quality surface and some equipment, like goals, may be supplied, but they can be pricey. Public pitches (hired from the local authority) may be lower quality but will also be much more affordable – even if the team must bring their own corner flags!
"A good resource to find a facility to train and play at is https://pitchfinder.org.uk/, which details information relating to all football facility types that are available for hire", suggests Ian Grange. "There are a number of 3G pitches located across the country, where teams are able to access world class facilities all year round. The majority of 3G operators offer discounts & incentives to train at the facilities for a prolonged period of time, although demand can be high."
- Match equipment
Hosting a football match requires a lot of equipment that you will need to supply if it isn't included in the pitch hire. This includes balls, nets, corner flags and goals.
- Training equipment
Additional balls should be supplied for training to make sure that the match balls remain in good condition.
The cost of kits will vary depending on the age and number of players needed. You will need to consider:
- Young players who may quickly grow out of their kit
- Having both home and away strips to avoid clashing with other teams
- Whether you will refresh kits every year or only when they are damaged.
With all these variables this expense could range from £150 to £650.
To help meet these fees, clubs should connect with local businesses about the possibility of becoming a kit sponsor.
Grassroots officials will need to be paid for their services. Typically, this will be around £30 per match. Amateur FA rules state that all payments should be made by the home team immediately after the conclusion of the match, with the away team paying 50% of the match officials' fees.
With so much expenditure, how do clubs pay for it all? The most common way is through the players who will contribute an agreed amount each week (subs). This could be around £5 per person.
Partnerships and small sponsorship deals can set up with local businesses, agreeing for some of the club's fees to be paid in exchange for including a company logo on the club's kit. Another great way to raise support and awareness is to arrange or get involved in local fundraising events. This will not only help to raise the team's profile but also create a bond with the local community.
Support can also be found online by utilising social media and crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe.
Don't be afraid to ask for advice
Starting a team from scratch is daunting, but Ian Grange explains that learning from existing groups, clubs and coaches is a great way to get the advice and support you need: "Make sure that you embed your team within the football club you are part of, that way you will get better support of the club committee and other coaches. There are vast levels of experience and knowledge within football clubs, so try to tap into this resource as often as you can – don't be afraid to ask questions as people are always willing to offer advice."
Get started with Harrod Sport
With almost 60 years of experience, we are experts in sports equipment manufacturing. If you're launching a new football team but are finding it hard to choose the best goal posts and training supplies, we can help! Get in touch using our contact form and we'll be happy to talk you through some options.