Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The business of youth football

Youth football is becoming a business.

We know that the Premiership is about business not football. What’s interesting about youth football is how clubs are developing into mini-businesses run by unpaid volunteers. In my first season at Raiders, we ran two U8 teams and the club had around 120 players. This season at Berkhamsted Raiders CFC, we’ll have 500 boys and girls playing football in 40 teams from U7 to U18 plus a Senior team. At U8, we’ll be running five teams. Here are some facts that get across the complexity of running a youth football club of this size:
  • Annual cost of running the club: £90,000
  • Income from member subscriptions: £60,000
  • Amount we have to generate through fundraising and subscriptions: £30,000
  • Codes of Conduct, Policies etc: Thirteen! (yes..that many...you can view and download them from the Berkhamsted Raiders web site, if you want to see what they are.
  • Committee members: Fifteen.
  • Managers and assistant managers: Eighty.
  •  Burgers sold at annual Raiders tournament....1,124
So, you can see... it’s become quite an enterprise. And it’s getting bigger...which is a concern, as I will explain with my business hat on.

What’s happening in the youth football “market” is similar to what happens in the business marketplace. As the formal structure of youth football develops (e.g. FA Charter Standard, FA Community Standard, CRB checks etc etc), so does the pressure increase on smaller clubs to meet the many requirements. The end result is what’s known as “market concentration” which means that the number of operators in a market reduces as smaller operators disappear and get acquired or merge into bigger businesses.

An example of this is my own U14 age group in the Berkhamsted area. A few weeks ago, our age group had 38 players for next season. We now have over 60, having “acquired” players from two local teams that have folded. This is good news for our club; we were the logical place for these local kids to come. But it’s sad for the teams that folded. One of them was a one team club that had been run by a football dad for the last six years from U8.

The downside is that as the big clubs get bigger and the smaller clubs fold, it becomes harder to find local leagues where you don’t end up playing your own teams twice or more each season. Our local league is the West Herts Youth League. In 2010/11, this league will reduce to two divisions at U14. We have four teams at U14. Our A team will play in the Watford Friendly League. Ideally, our B and two C teams would play in the more local West Herts Youth League but.... none of these three teams is strong enough for Division 1 (we’re an “all abilities” club) which would mean three Raiders teams in the same division....not exactly ideal. So, two of our teams will be travelling further afield to find their opposition.

Does your youth football club face the same situation? Add your comments below.


  1. You are 100% spot-on Keith, youth football is becoming a mini-business in its set up. Gone are the days when small youth clubs used to be the place where the big clubs scout for promising talents to groom for professional stage, and this is not just in England but across Europe. The governments are now more concerned about selling the few playing fields to property developers hence the folding up of various promising small clubs. I used to assist in youth football in the Harrow league when we had so many youth teams competing for trophies and some of the players going on to play for either their country or the big clubs but all that is gone. Once someone said to me "Waste business is big business" but now it is 'Youth football is big business' for those youth teams that can survive the squeeze.

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