FA Announce New Futsal League Plans by Carl Wilkinson
On March 8th we learned that the National Futsal League (NFL) would have FA funding withdrawn at the end of this 2018/19 season with it being re-directed to The FA’s new league competition structure.
The NFL is an independent league with its own committee - completely separate to The FA - and that is an important distinction to make when discussing this topic. The NFL may or may not continue beyond the ‘18/19 season, this communication hasn’t been made yet, but one thing that is certain is that it will be without FA funding.
On March 16th at St. George’s Park, following The FA’s national futsal conference, The FA delivered a briefing aimed at current clubs to provide an update on what the futsal landscape is going to look like in England. Whilst this was a pre-planned session and there were lots of detail it is worth noting that some of these details are not finalised, in some cases are with the legal team, but it is a guide towards where The FA are heading with it.
The FA will both fund and operate the new league competition (which is yet to have a name or brand) which it hopes will more closely align with the ‘Fast Forward with Futsal’ six-year strategy that was recently released. The league will be the new beneficiary of the allocated men’s and women’s competition funding, as well as being allocated the UEFA Champions League qualification rights afforded to The FA by UEFA.
The new league sees little change to the way the Women’s league is currently operating and as such the majority of the briefing was centred around the Men’s game. The one thing that is likely to affect both (certainly the Men’s) leagues is that the proposed league competition is based on club licensing and not membership.
Regional competition (North / Midlands / South)
Similar structure to this season
Standards in line and consistent with Tier 2 criteria (no expansion on this so far)
Long term plans are still to be decided
The five-year plan details a vision, a mission and five objectives which are designed to link back to the Fast Forward with Futsal strategy, along with a governance roadmap to suit. Year zero is where we start in ‘19/20 as a reset year where the FA will manage the league in-house. Year one is readiness for outsource, year two outsourced governance and operations, year three fully commercialise and year four is the goal of being self-sustainable.
The FA are treating this with care and the goal is to take control in-house to get it right but then send it back outside of the FA once it can survive on its own (or with commercial partners).
The Vision: A high quality, sustainable, exciting & entertaining national league for futsal
The mission: Providing the pinnacle competition for the highest quality futsal clubs in the country to aspire to, compete in, inspire others and develop the best players.
Engage & inspire
Credibility & integrity
So why the need for change?
Following consultation of people in the game, the independent review found that people thought:
The profile of the game needed to improve (including media and promotion)
The quality of the competition was not at the appropriate level to take the game forwards
Issues such as small attendances, no branding, little promotion and awareness, too many one-sided games & venue quality
The National League is an important part of futsal as the focal competitionLeague had no clear plan of how it would become sustainable with the knock-on impact that clubs struggle to plan accordingly
Current arrangements lacked the necessary clarity and transparency
The new structure has ‘County Youth Futsal League Structures (5-18)’ at the base of it with EFL Trust / BUCS / AOC futsal (16-23) a layer above with County Futsal League Structures (open age) a layer above that. The top layer of the male pathway is comprised of two Tiers (with the potential to create a third in the coming seasons), only accessible by clubs via a Licence Application process. There will be a suitable promotion/relegation process as part of this, provided the promoted club meets the Tier 1 criteria.
Tier 1 is the ‘superleague’ or whatever the name will be for the premier division and this national division will have 8-10 teams. In Tier 2 there is a North, Midlands & South division each having 8-10 teams. The potential third tier is the ‘championship’ equivalent and will become the new Tier 2 indicated as a North / South set up for now (with the current Tier 2 becoming Tier 3 - much easier to see once the slide pack becomes available). Below all of this will be the regional/county structure. If year zero only has 8 teams in Tier 1 the aim will be to increase that to 10 by year one.
A potential 40 teams means that at least 12 teams are going to miss out…and this won’t be open to just the current NFL teams, so there may be more competition for places.
The big item rumoured prior to the announcement was central venues. Each division that requires a licence to access (Tiers 1 & 2 at this stage) will play from a central venue and each club will have the chance to host two rounds of competition throughout the season which will be complimented by two ‘golden rounds’ which haven’t been confirmed at this point. (If each team hosts twice there are two rounds missing)
All fixtures in one venue on one day over in a weekend
Host club to develop relationship with a venue that can hold 250 seated spectators
Host club responsible for delivery of two events with league support (assessed)
Venue must be at least 38m x 20m with 2m run-off all round
Venue must allow access to simultaneous use of five changing rooms
Venue must be single use whilst the games are being played
Host club retains spectator sales incomeLeague subsidy for venue hire in first few years
2x Golden rounds tbc
Another big item was player registrations and English eligibility. The registrations (approx.) currently are 1279 with 996 of those making an appearance. 283 of those haven’t made an appearance so far and 180 have made just one. Those numbers don’t make for good reading so the proposed registration are:
Matchday squads may consist of up to 14. An minimum of seven must be English Qualified Players (EQP - subject to legal). Each player will be issued with a licence to play, stating their qualification - there is no beating the system. Maximum of 30 registrations, made up of at least 50% English Qualified Players (EQP). If you want to sign non-English qualified players you must first sign one U19 player which will ‘unlock’ two non-EQP registrations. If you sign a second U19 that releases another two and so on until you reach a maximum of 10 non-EQP.
15 English Qualified Players
10 non-English Qualified Players
Coaches in Tier 1 must hold the English UEFA B coaching qualification. If the coach holds a foreign equivalent they will be invited in to speak with a technical panel who withhold the right to grant/deny acceptance. Coaches in Tier 2 must be English UEFA B or demonstrate that they are working towards UEFA B.
Each team must have a qualified medic on the bench. Each club must also achieve, by the end of year zero, the equivalent of charter standard.
Costs: More travel costs offset by less venue hire costs
Income potential: Higher spectator income potential
Player recruitment: Less teams means more players; central venues means more flexible recruitment across country
Experience: Better matchday experience
The aim is for the first round of applications to be checked by ‘Switch the Play’ (the independent company that carried out the review) and for them to align the clubs with their most suitable Tier to address any potential bias claims.
There will be club support sessions available online and in person (with the FA Futsal Cup Finals weekend likely to be one of those face to face dates). The fully detailed pack of the information above will be issued by mid April and there will be a period of seven weeks for clubs to pull together their applications. Final format and decisions mid-July with fixtures announced in August. Season will run from end of September until May.
The governance of the league will be as follows:
FA Futsal Committee
League Executive Steering Committee [ESC] (inc. Coaches)
League Management Operations Team [LMOT] (inc. Coaches)
The ESC will provide strategic direction and is the decision-making body of the new league (interim), in charge of overseeing development progress and transition and facilitating collaboration among clubs and stakeholders.
The LMOT will ensure the day to day running and management of the league operates efficiently and effectively across all operational areas and that standards of events, teams and clubs are maintained and adhered to, across the following areas: Commercial & Legal. Club Support. Finance & Admin. Registration & Licenses. Matchday Management. Disciplinaries. Marketing & Communications.
Club Licence criteria:
Governance & club management
Financial stability & business planning
Facilities & Venues
Team development - coaching, players & youth development
Compliance & performance
All of the information is provided in good faith, based on the information taken on board as part of the briefing. For any queries or clarifications, a dedicated email address has been created: