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The FA’s National Futsal Series

Updated: Aug 21, 2019

Further to the FA announcement on March 8th 2019 and the article (https://www.thefutsalindy.com/post/post-fa-futsal-conference) that followed, we are now at a stage where almost all of the detail is known. Despite the information being in draft format, this is likely to be the detail that season zero (2019/20) is based on.

The National Futsal Series (NFS) will be the FA’s pinnacle futsal competition and take over from what was the National Futsal League (NFL), a separately run competition that received some of the FA’s competition funding (and will continue under a new committee as a separate competition). Much of the information contained within will be the same as that already shared with a few tweaks in places and that will be the focus of this article.

The NFS will run as a two-tier operation and consist of a single national Tier 1 and a set number (assumed three, based on other wording in the document) of regional divisions in Tier 2. Each division will have a minimum of eight teams and a maximum of 10 and, although not expressly stated in the documents (I don’t think), the three regional divisions will require the same number of teams in each so that the fourth semi-finalist of the play-off can be calculated fairly and not on a points-per-game basis, which skews the calculation.

The application window for the women’s league will open on Monday 24th June, so more information will be known at that time.

Registrations / Players & Staff

30 registrations per season (with players being de-registered to make way for others), 10 of which must be home grown players (HGP), allowing 20 non-HGP. This seems to be an area that the team have struggled with whilst passing it through legal as the original proposal was much stricter than this and perhaps may be something that is worked towards at a later date.

“Home Grown Player” – A player who, irrespective of nationality or age, has played for any club affiliated to The FA for a period, continuous or not, of three seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday (or the end of the season during which he turns 21) and, for the purposes of this definition of ‘home grown player’, a season will be deemed to commence on the date on 1 September and expire on the date of the final competition match of the season.

There seems no mention of the proposed 14 player maximums, with a mandatory 12-man match day squad in the detail whereby only four of those are required to be HGP; a relief for those that were complaining that a 50% rule would be too strict at this stage. The added part to this is that, in the referee’s opinion, all named players must be fit enough to take part in the game – an effort to ensure that there are no names on the bench that are simply to make the numbers up.

Each team may name up to four staff members to be pitchside during a match including:

  • A head coach that holds an FA Futsal UEFA B license (Tier 1) or an FA Licensed coach with Futsal Level 2 Coaching Award (Tier 2). Head coaches that hold the UEFA B / Level 2 from other national associations will need to attend / evidence their holding of in-date FA Level 1 Introduction to First Aid in Football, FA Safeguarding Workshop & an appropriate and valid DBS check.

  • Up to two assistant FA Licensed coaches that hold the FA Futsal Level 2 Coaching Award.

  • An appointed person as physiotherapist / first aider that meet the criteria given in the document. There is also mention later in one of the documents that the host club will be responsible for medical cover of all games unless one or both of the teams in each round are accompanied by an appropriately qualified person, in which case they do not need to cover that game separately – again a relaxation from what was proposed as a mandatory piece of the puzzle, originally. This would make sense if each team had their own staff member, though.

Competitions

The NFS competition will consist of 20 rounds – each club hosting twice each – with rounds 10 and 20 only, being the ‘Super Cup’. At round 10 the top eight teams (or all teams in an eight-team division) will compete on a 1v8, 2v7, 3v6, 4v5 single-leg knockout basis. The winners will progress to the Super Cup SF stage and the losers will progress to the Plate SF stage (again, single leg KO) which will be held as part of round 20. The winners of each SF will compete in the final for the Super Cup and the Plate – though the document doesn’t define when these games take place.

In January, round 10 will host the Super Cup QF games before heading into May for the SF in round 20 then separate days for the Tier 2 Super Cup & Plate finals and the Tier 2 promotional play-off / Tier 1 Super Cup and plate finals, later that month, held at St George’s Park. (Tier 2 cup finals venue tbc).

Each round of games will have an appointed Local Event Manager (LEM) by the host who is responsible for the round on behalf of the club, along with the Match Commissioner (MC) who is appointed by the competition to administer that round of games on its behalf.

Determination of the division winners (in the event of equal points after all rounds of games) is made on the following basis:

  • Goal difference >

  • Head-to-head goal difference where goals scored are taken away from each other’s total >

  • Goals scored >

  • Matches won >

  • Deciding play-off game.

The lowest two teams will be relegated to the division below or removed from the competition (in the case of Tier 2) unless teams fail to uphold the criteria which allowed them into the division in the first place. In the case of Tier 2 teams, if they are relegated from the competition that must re-apply for their position along with any new prospective entrants.

Promotion from Tier 2 into Tier 1 will be contested in the form of a play-off by (subject to all clubs confirming their wishes to be promoted / meeting the T1 criteria) the three regional champions along with the highest runner-up from the divisions (hence all divisions needing equal teams or PPG becomes a poor way of determining the highest runner-up).

Venue

The most exciting thing about this, from my own point of view, is the change in venues. The north of England is blessed in terms of ‘adequate’ venues but even this is being put to the test with The FA’s requirements. I’ve gone on record already as saying that being able to see a full day of futsal instead of just one game at a time is immeasurably better for me but I appreciate the hesitancy of some with regards costs and operational performance. But:

  • Tier 1 pitch size 38m x 18m (min.) up to 42 x 25 (max.) with 2m run off all round with seating for 250 spectators.

  • Tier 2 pitch size 30m x 15m (min.) up to 42 x 25 (max.) with 1m run off all round with seating for 150 spectators.

Each venue must have four changing rooms available for simultaneous use with an additional room for the officials (which may then need to take into account female referees). Separate player and spectator entrances preferred (or a method for ensuring players enter the building safely), a suitable area for the Match Commissioner to work and a private room that is available for use by the Doping Control Officer. The final requirement of this kind is that an additional area for non-paying players (between games etc.) must be made available – that’s a lot of areas to partition the arena into!

The original proposal of single use sports venue (no other events taking place at the same time) remains and is seemingly the preference but has been relaxed in that hosts must confirm if this is not achievable within an agreed period.

Branding & Event Delivery

Floor graphics, display flags, goal banners, promotional pop-up banners and match ball plinth are all included in the information so what we will hopefully see is attention to detail delivered on a weekly (or bi-weekly) basis. The host club is encouraged to put their own spin on the event and with this only being twice a season the clubs have the chance to make an impression, hopefully this will be taken in the right way and clubs will try to out-do each other, calling in support from the many resources they have.

Music played during warm ups, time-outs and half time is compulsory, and clubs are encouraged to appoint a DJ to provide this, as well as other forms of half-time entertainment such as dancers/cheerleaders etc. The player walk out will be done to a common NFS theme and players will be announced by the DJ – if you’ve visited St. George’s Park for internationals or the recent FA Futsal Cup finals – this is exactly what it sounds like).

Reporting of the event is the responsibility of the LEM and I’m glad to see that everything is going to be visible (to the NFS, at least). Gate receipt sum, total spectators, income & expenditure for the event, problem ID & future ideas (plus more) are all part of the requirements, ensuring that there isn’t an attitude of ‘Right, we’re done now for another six months’.

The NFS appointed media consultant will be afforded access to the pitch, media boards, Wi-Fi and to the post-match media backdrop area for interviews along with local media outlets etc. CFA members and VIPs are also encouraged to be invited (and in the case of CFAs should aid delivery of the event where possible).

Of course, there is a lot more information contained than what I’ve covered above but these are the points that I’ve found the most interesting, no doubt there will be more discussions to follow but from what we have so far there is nothing to suggest the new model won’t be a big success.

The application window is now open, and clubs have until Friday 5th July to submit with final decisions being communicated no later than 31st July.

Good luck to those that submit their bid and we’ll see how the summer progresses, particularly given that the National Futsal League has offered to continue to run despite the introduction of the NFS and of the conversations that have taken place so far, it appears that the NFL will run at the equivalent of Tier 3, providing somewhere to play for those that miss out on being granted an NFS license.

Thoughts on a postcard…

Carl Wilkinson for @TheFutsalIndy

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