Setting Up A Club

Setting up a club – 10 Point Plan

How to start a sports club - Introduction

This guide is intended for anyone thinking of starting a new community sports club - for adults or juniors.  It takes you through some of the questions and processes that you need to consider if you are to establish a successful new club.  In each step, we've signposted and linked you to the various resources on Help for Clubs that are available to help you.

Step 1: Check for existing clubs in the area

There is very little point in duplicating something that already exists. So, no matter how good your ideas are for a new club, please do first check around to see whether anything similar already exists in your town or neighbourhood. Some places to start include:

  •  Check our Club Finder
  •  Local library and other information centres who are likely to maintain directories of local clubs
  •  Local newspapers, to see if there are any reports from established clubs
  •  Your Sports Governing Body who will have a list of all the member clubs in your area.

Step 2: Is there reasonable demand for a club?

There is a minimum number of people required to make any club viable.  This number very much depends on the nature of your sport.  You can probably start a table tennis club with just five or six people, but if you want to start a cricket or rugby club and field a realistic team each week, you'll need at least 15 or 20 members to get going.

You probably know two or three other people who share your interest in forming a new club.  Now is the time to build a list of potential members.  At this stage you're not asking people for subscriptions or playing commitments; you want to build a potential membership list of people who might join any new club.

There are many ways of doing this:

  • Organise an open meeting and publicise it well through the local papers, sports centres, social media and other outlets
  • For a junior club, talk to the Schools coordinators in your local schools
  • Publish your ideas in local papers and ask people to get in touch
  • Arrange a leaflet distribution around the estate or community and ask people to get in touch with you.

Step 3: Ask for help from NGB's & LA's

There are three organisations that should be able to help you, as each of them are committed to helping develop sport throughout the community.  You should make contact with each of them, and find out what practical help they can offer. 

They are:

  • The Governing Body for your sport; most governing bodies employ development officers whose role is to help local clubs
  • The Local Authority which is likely to have a sports or leisure department; they can help with the hiring or letting of sports facilities; they may have small grants for new clubs; and their officers may be able to give you practical advice.
  • The County Sports Partnership brings together many local sports clubs; there is a wealth of expertise that you can draw on here to help you get off to the best start.

Make sure you speak to each of these groups in the early stages of forming your new club.

Step 4: Put the basics in place

While some very small clubs can manage with just one person running the show, it is usually a good idea to recruit a few people to form a small club committee.  This helps to divide the tasks amongst the team and helps to bring different ideas and skills into your club.  Once you form a committee and give your club a name, you have effectively become what is known as an 'unincorporated association'.  With a simple constitution and some club officers you can then open a bank account to manage your club's money.  You can find information below which may help you make these important decisions:

This section of the Club Mark website explains more about becoming an unincorporated association and whether you might also consider becoming a charity or a recognised 'Community Amateur Sports Club'.

This section on Constitutions gives you some downloadable templates that you can edit to suit your needs and also gives information regarding roles within a club.

Please click on this link to view more information on how to effectively run a meeting

As your club grows, you may need to consider other legal structures but you can return to these in due course. Of course, no club can exist without a group of active and enthusiastic volunteers to keep it going and preferably expanding. Have a look at our volunteer section for some ideas.

Step 5: Secure the initial funding and facilities

Securing the initial funding and facilities can be one of the hardest parts of getting started.  Most clubs begin with some initial funds subscribed by the members and then realise that they need additional money and resources if they are to become successful.  There are probably more sources of help than you have imagined.

The range of Funding options includes club-based fund-raising activities, local authority support, Awards for All, sponsorship, other Lottery funds, and collaborative agreements with other sports bodies. See our funding section for some ideas on getting started.

Step 6: Get an attractive sports programme going

What brings people into clubs is an interesting and enjoyable programme of sport. The first thing you need to focus on is getting the sports programme together. 

Depending on your members, you'll need to decide whether to pitch your activities at novices, juniors, seniors, experienced players or elite players.  With only a small number of members you probably need to focus on a more limited number of levels; if members are always playing against people of very different skills and abilities, it can be hard to sustain motivation and enjoyment within the club. 

As your club grows, you will probably want to develop a more coherent 'player pathway' to encourage progression from recreational or novice players to more competitive and experienced levels of play. 

Don't forget that many members also enjoy the social side of any club and the opportunity to make new friends; your programme may include social activities as well as playing activities.

Step 7: Join local competitions and leagues

Many of the more experienced players will want to have some competitive activities and for this you're more than likely going to have to look outside your own club.  With sufficient members, you can organise your own internal club leagues, ladders and competitions.  In many sports and localities there are also inter-club leagues and competitions where you can play against other teams and individuals.

For an excellent guide, see the runningsports booklet on Organising Fixtures and Competitions.

Step 8: Develop supportive policies and procedures

While most members don't want to spend too much time on club administration, there is a certain level of procedural work that you will need to do if the club is to keep running along smoothly.  Some of the questions that you may be faced with include:

  • Who do we want to encourage to join as a member?
  • Are we going to involve juniors in our club?
  • If we do have children and young people involved, how do we protect them?
  • What are the health and safety considerations that affect our sport, our use of equipment, and our premises and facilities?
  • How do we support the volunteers that are contributing to our club?

Many other clubs have already tackled these issues, so to save you 'reinventing the wheel' we've brought together several useful guides and help pages in a Club Resources pack.

Step 9: Start to plan for long term success

If your club just keeps the same members and doesn't review its activities, it runs the risk of becoming static and eventually withering away as members drift off.  A healthy club is one that has a regular influx of new members and a periodic change in office-bearers on the committee.  It has a mix of recreational, competitive and social activities.  And it's regularly thinking about the future.

You don't have to be ambitious, provided you keep reviewing whether your club is doing what the current and potential future members actually want.  If you look around at other clubs, you'll find that they may be recruiting more younger members (the full members of the future), looking to expand their facilities, starting new competitions or joining new leagues, or providing more training and coaching for their members.  There are many options for developing your club - you just need to decide which is the most appropriate.

  • The club section of our website introduces this whole area and gives you some tools and ideas for growing your club
  • The youth sport  pages focus specifically on children and young people and you may get some helpful information here
  • The coaching section offers plenty of guidance on where to find or train coaches and how improved coaching can help to develop your club
  • The funding section looks at all the options for raising more money to pay for these developments - from local fund-raising events to applications to the National Lottery

Step 10: Have fun and celebrate your successes!

It can be hard work as well as rewarding to be involved in the establishment and running of a community sports club.  So don't forget to take time out to enjoy it and celebrate all your successes:

  • Create your own club competitions and award medals and trophies to the winners
  • Keep a photographic record of your activities, and publish details in your member newsletters
  • Organise some social events that bring members together across all ability levels
  • Host an annual dinner or awards ceremony to provide a focal point for recognising the achievements of your members and your club.
  • Speak the language of the young and Embrace Social Media, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. 

Club Development Officer

The Club Development Officer at Nottinghamshire County Council is Sarah Williams she can be contacted on 0115 9772986 or sarah.williams@nottscc.gov.uk you can also find Sarah on Twitter 

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