American football really started to grow across Great Britain in the 1980s when coverage of the NFL started on Channel 4 and whilst still a relatively new sport in Great Britain when compared to many of the indigenous sports there are over 200 football teams playing both contact and Flag football around Great Britain. They form part of the fabric of BAFA and in the relatively short amount of time the sport has been on these shores, many have positioned themselves at the heart of their local communities.
Clubs vary in size and location. Some clubs host just one team; others host multiple teams across a number of age ranges and across both contact and non contact disciplines. There are a number of teams across British universities, colleges and schools as well as in the community.
The vast majority of BAFA’s clubs are run by volunteers and are funded by member subscriptions and localised sponsorship.
There are many responsibilities for club committees as they seek to ensure that their club provides the highest quality environment for its members and complies with both national and BAFA standards of good practice. These include but are not limited to financial management, equality compliance, strategic planning and development, partnership creation and support across a host of potential partners from schools to facility providers, promotion and sponsorship, safeguarding, and game day management.
The most effective way for clubs to establish themselves is to be involved in a planning process that will ensure that all key areas of club management are addressed to a minimum standard.
The primary considerations when establishing a club are:
Ultimately clubs seek to play in competitions. In order to enter our competitions (with the exception of student competitions) clubs have to complete the entry process - a process detailed in the Associate Club Form which can be downloaded here.
Clubs largely start with there being a small group of like-minded individuals who wish to play competitive football. In order to ensure a club is viable it is important that a mapping exercise is undertaken which will establish both local provision and local need.
People interested in setting up a new club should look to see where there is existing local provision. Even if a new club is set up it is important people work together to make football sustainable.
People interested in setting up a new club should look to engage with the local community to establish the demand for the activity. Whilst part of this can be done via word of mouth and the appropriate use of tools such as social media, it is better when underpinned by formal partnerships with local stakeholders.
Establish a Committee and Club Structure
In order to progress effectively it is important that the club is underpinned by a collective vision and robust policies and procedures which guide ways of working.
The interested people should come together to create an action plan to set up the club. This plan should define:
The collective vision of the club; specific aims and milestones; initial roles for a committee; potential training and game venues; equipment required - ideally owned by the club; and a rough budget.
From here the core documents for creating and running a club can be drafted.
A great list of key documents from sportscotland including draft constitutions and role descriptions can be found here.
Examples of key safeguarding documents can be found here at the CPSU site.
Building links with key bodies will be critical in making your club successful.
Representatives from BAFA will be more than happy to provide advice and guidance on club development.
If you are a student club your first port of call should be the Student Union or Sports Department within your institution.
If you are a community-based club then you should be looking to speak with representatives from your local authority or County Sports Partnership. They can provide invaluable advice and guidance on various aspects of club development.
A list of Scottish Local Authorities can be found here.
A list of County Sport Partnerships in England can be found here.
A list of Welsh Local Authorities can be found here.
Before you look to link with local schools and organisations which cater for u18s and / or vulnerable adults please ensure you have your safeguarding policies and procedures in place.
After your initial process of establishing the demand for the sport, once your main structure is in place you are in a great position to push recruitment. Alongside establishing formal relationships with schools, community groups and other bodies, clubs should look to engage with the local press and maximise their social media exposure.
Clubs should ensure that their plan makes their club economically viable. This means ensuring that the income generated is more than enough to cover outgoings. The Associate Club Form (linked above) provides a top line model for income and expenditure.
A key issue for many teams when planning is not so much the 'day-to-day' running costs of the club - from facility hire, payment of officials, transport costs and so forth, but the need to build capital to invest in club assets - mainly equipment, which can be loaned to players to reduce the access barriers which they may face when joining the sport.
It is recommended that club committees liaise with representatives from their County Sports Partnership or local authority on potential sources of grants which could be applied for.
Health and Safety
The club committee should ensure that there are plans for all training sessions and game day activities to be overseen by people with the right coaching qualifications and medical training.
The women's game has a dedicated Facebook page where people interact as they look to start or get involved with teams. This can be found at Facebook.com/BAFAWomen
Photo c/o L Plastow