The FA does not have any rules or requirements that specify that a club must be structured in one legal form or another. It is a matter for each club to determine the legal form that is best based on its own circumstances.
The downloads provide detailed information on the common forms that football clubs can adopt together with some advantages and disadvantages of that form.
A club should seek independent legal advice in relation to the most appropriate structure and form that it should adopt and the steps to be taken if a club is considering making any changes to its structure including but not limited to incorporation. Before making any structural changes the club should give prior notice to The FA (and the league and County FA of which it is a member), in relation to the application of football’s rules.
The majority of football clubs in England are unincorporated associations comprising a group of individuals bound together by the constitution or rules of the club. This means that the club is not a legal person in its own right and so any contract of the club must be entered into by someone on behalf of the club. Normally a committee runs the club and it will be a member or members of the committee, who will enter into contracts and hold land on behalf of the club.
An unincorporated association does not have a separate legal identity from its members and so the members of the governing committee have to hold any land or investments of the club in their own name. This means that if the named individual leaves the club, all of the land or investments in their name needs to be transferred to someone else.
Members are jointly and severally liable for any liabilities meaning one member could be liable for all of the club’s debts if other members cannot pay. It is essential that insurance is purchased to cover all of the club’s activities.
Some clubs may wish to pay the one-off cost of changing from an unincorporated association to a company limited by guarantee because of the advantages listed in the download, especially acquiring legal identity and protecting members from possible liabilities. However there are some disadvantages in doing so.
Small clubs may not want to incur the expense of changing their status. However, if they own land or receive donations from members they may wish to consider registering as a Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC) so as to benefit from the tax reliefs available to a CASC (see download).
Any club receiving substantial donations (donations do not include sponsorship payments) may wish to consider the benefits of becoming a charity, for example, taking advantage of the Gift Aid scheme.
This information above is believed to reflect the law and practice in the area as it applied at [August 2010]. It is not intended to be a statement of law. It has been written in general terms and therefore cannot be relied upon to cover specific situations; application of the principles set out will depend upon the particular circumstances involved and we recommend that you obtain professional advice before acting or refraining from action on any of the contents of this publication. The Football Association Limited and Charles Russell LLP accept no duty of care or liability for any loss occasioned, whether caused by negligence or otherwise, to any person acting or refraining from actions as a result of any material in this publication.