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With another pre-season getting underway for many clubs, our Club Development month comes to a close and within this final blog, we're taking a look at the England Accredited scheme and how it can impact on your club.
It’s perhaps an appropriate time firstly to explain what we mean by England Football Accredited or, as many people will perhaps know it better by is the FA's “Charter Standard” which was the previous title used for the scheme.
This national accreditation scheme, coordinated by the FA under their new England Football branding, is one of recognition and opportunity for both grassroots football clubs and leagues. Its goal is to raise standards in grassroots football, support the development of clubs and leagues, recognising and rewarding them for their commitment and achievements. A star system is used to represent the size of club and their opportunities therefore afforded to the participant.
To achieve the England Football Accreditation kitemark for an adult club, it has to demonstrate that they offer well-run and sustainable football whilst challenging themselves to maintain high standards and, where appropriate, to improve and progress to new levels. It's a requirement to be working to a development plan for the club, identifying where things can be improved and the progress being made towards those actions.
The common misconception is that the scheme is targeted at big, well established youth clubs. Well, it is perhaps true that a larger majority of those clubs are those who have taken it up, but adult-only clubs are equally entitled to take part and earn recognition. In fact, from looking at the requirements, it is far easier for an adult club to join the scheme and maintain the accreditation in the long run.
But what’s in it for my club?
Good question. For many, you will be probably thinking, it sounds like a great idea in principle but are really not sure of the benefits you will see as a club. Some of the benefits are intangible and include:
- Being able to promote the fact that you are an England Football Accredited club bringsa positive reputation about how well run your club is
- Attracting and retaining players and volunteers
- Access to tailored support and resources from the FA and county FA
Some of the tangible benefits to new and existing accredited clubs include:
- Provided with new match balls each season
- Kit and equipment vouchers to be spent with an approved distributor
- Eligible to apply for certain funding opportunities
That all sounds great but what do I need to do to meet the criteria?
Our focus in this section is very much with adult clubs, that being the demographic we work with most closely.
There are a number of criteria that all clubs have to meet which include having a bank account in the club’s name for those with multiple teams and an accompanying financial statement approved by the club’s committee.
All clubs need to also have a set of key documents in place which include club rules for its members, safeguarding and equality policies along with having a development plan document which looks at how your club is planning to develop and meet targets set.
The remaining key requirement is to ensure that there is a qualified, non-playing, first aider at each match. This individual needs to have attained the Introduction to First Aid in Football (IFAIF), even if they already hold other vocationally-related first aid courses targeted at the workplace. This is now an online course so does not require physical attendance at a training course.
For youth clubs, the requirements extend significantly into areas concerning coaches requiring to hold qualifications, safeguarding matters, CRC checks for all volunteers and minutes of committee meetings, demonstrating that it is much easier for adult-only clubs to get onboard.
While the above may not be an exhaustive list of requirements, it does outline the key areas being assessed as clubs go through the application process, something which Essex County FA are only too happy to support on all the way.
OK, I’m interested. What happens next?
For those wanting to proceed, the first port of call is to get in touch with the Football Development Officer at your county FA who will give you the advice you need and help you get the ball rolling. For those affiliated with Essex County FA, you can speak with Jake Ling who represents our area (London boroughs). His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Furthermore, we have individuals within the league itself who are more than happy to provide a practical helping hand and assist in preparing the various documents required for your club. We even have some templates available that you can simply drop your club name into.
There will naturally be much scepticism from many quarters that this is a scheme that merely serves to tick a few boxes at the FA. Perhaps this remains true but there is no doubt that the scheme is now well recognised nationwide with the percentage of accredited clubs and leagues on the grow year upon year. With that growth brings a much better understanding of what it represents to hold this kite mark for your club.
For adult-only football clubs, the criteria remains very achievable for clubs of any size, including those who operate with a very small pool of volunteers. With the undoubted availability of templates and exemplars to assist with the construction of the key documents to support your application, the tangible benefits I feel are sufficient to consider making an application. The cost of new match balls and the voucher for kit and equipment alone makes this a worthwhile investment in your club, not discounting the other benefits that are likely to follow.