Please scroll down to bottom of the page for relevant resource documents.
Owners’ and Directors’ Test
The Owners’ and Directors’ Test applies to all clubs in the Premier League, English Football League, National League, Isthmian League, Northern Premier League, Southern Football League, WSL and Women's Championship. The purpose of the Test is for the owners, directors and officers of clubs in those leagues to meet standards greater than that required under law so as to protect the reputation and image of the game. The Premier League and English Football League administer the Test for clubs in their leagues. Any queries in relation to the application of the Test to a club in membership of the Premier League or English Football League should be addressed to the respective league. The FA administers the Test to clubs in membership of the National League, the three leagues below and WSL and Women's Championship. Any queries in relation to the application of the Test at those levels of the game should be addressed to The FA at ODT@TheFA.com.
Third Party Interest in Players Regulations
The FA’s Third Party Interest in Players Regulations apply at all levels of the game in England. The objective of these Regulations is to prevent any party other than a recognised football club from holding an interest in a player registered with an English club. The Premier League and English Football League also have rules and regulations in this area.
English football has agreed that if third parties were permitted to hold an interest in what are sometimes termed the “economic rights” of a player it would pose an unacceptable level of risk to the integrity of our competitions. For example, it is unacceptable to English football for the same third party to hold interests in players that are due to play against each other for clubs in its competitions.
In addition English football holds the view that the payment of transfer fees are important for the redistribution of money throughout the game and that the entitlement to transfer fees should be retained entirely by clubs and should not be due to third parties.
The holding of the economic rights in a player by third parties was prohibited on a worldwide basis by FIFA in 2015.
National League System Regulations
The National League System (“NLS”) is a system of competitions controlled by The FA where promotion and relegation links exist between Leagues within the football pyramid. The structure of NLS is included within the NLS Regulations.
These regulations govern the establishment and operation of the NLS. The aims and objectives of the NLS are to provide clubs with a level of competitive football appropriate to their playing ability, stadium facilities and economic location; to provide a framework for discussion on matters of policy and common interest to leagues and clubs; and allow for seasonal movement of clubs.
The Leagues Committee is appointed by The FA Council to deal with all matters appertaining to the NLS. The members of the Leagues Committee are shown in the current FA Handbook. Key responsibilities include the seasonal promotion, relegation or lateral movement of clubs between the Steps within the NLS. The regulations also address the movement of clubs within the NLS other than by promotion and relegation. For example where a club has been wound up, liquidated, ceases to trade or is removed from its league or withdraws from football competition then the regulations set out the requirements for the entry into the NLS of a new club.
Standardised Rules and Standard Code of Rules
The Standardised Rules are compiled by the Alliance Committee of The FA for the mandatory use by leagues at Steps 1 to 6 of the National League System (“NLS”). Details of the NLS can be found in the NLS Regulations. The FA Council appoints the members of the Alliance Committee and their names are included in the current FA Handbook. The Standardised Rules are a base set of rules that are adopted at the annual general meetings of Leagues at Steps 1 to 6. The aim of the Standardised Rules is to achieve a measure of consistency within the different leagues at each Step of the game. A league may add to the Standardised Rules but such additions require the prior agreement of The FA.
The Standardised Rules are distinguished from the Standard Code of Rules that has been compiled for the use of all competitions outside of the NLS.
The FA Licensing Manuals for UEFA Club Competitions
UEFA Club Licensing
UEFA has operated a licensing scheme for clubs to play in the Champions League and Europa League since 2004. From the 2020/21 season UEFA has expanded the licensing scheme to include the Women’s Champions League. Each season UEFA invite its member national associations to prepare a National Club Licensing Manual based on UEFA’s licensing requirements. The FA Board is the licensor in England. Under their terms of reference the Professional Game Board and The FA Women’s Super League and The FA Women’s Championship Board of The FA considers UEFA club licensing matters on behalf of The FA Board for the men’s and women’s game respectively.
Part II of UEFA’s Club Licensing & Financial Fair Play Regulations set out the requirements that a club that plays in a top division of each country must meet to be granted a licence to play in UEFA’s club competitions for the following season. As Licensor in England, The FA applies these requirements to Premier League and WSL clubs working closely with the Leagues.
UEFA require each licensor to ensure that all applicable licensing criteria defined in their Regulations are integrated into a set of regulations or manual to be applied to clubs applying for a licence to play in UEFA’s competitions within each country. The licence applies to UEFA’s competitions only and not to domestic competitions. UEFA review and approve each licensor’s set of regulations for consistency with the licensing requirements set out in their Regulations.
The FA Licensing Manuals for UEFA Club Competitions are prepared each year to satisfy the requirements of the club licensing requirements of UEFA’s Regulations. The requirements included in relevant FA Manual is applied to Premier League or WSL clubs that apply for a licence to play in UEFA’s competitions for the following season.
In the event that a club that does not play in a top division, such as an EFL club, may qualify for the Europa League through the domestic cup competitions then that club may make an extraordinary application to UEFA under Article 15 of UEFA’s Regulations for special permission to play in the Europa League. UEFA issue a separate set of requirements to be met by a club that is not in a top division. It is then UEFA’s decision as to whether or not that club meets those requirements and is granted the special permission to play in the Europa League for the following season.
Part III of UEFA’s Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations set out various monitoring requirements (known as Financial Fair Play (“FFP”)) that are applied by UEFA during a season to those clubs that have been granted a licence and have qualified for UEFA’s men’s competitions.
Further details of the application of UEFA’s Club Licensing and FFP requirements and relevant documents are included on UEFA’s website:
You can download the UEFA Licensing Manual from the resource section below.
There are two types of FA membership, Full Membership and Associate Membership. The Football Association Limited is a company with share capital. The articles of association of The FA set out in detail who is entitled to hold an ordinary share. A Full Member of The FA is allocated an ordinary share that entitles the holder to participate at general meetings of The FA and to vote on proposed changes to FA Rules, Regulations and articles. It also provides limited entitlement to purchase tickets for matches organised by The FA.
A Club may apply to be a member of The FA. To be able to apply for Full Membership, a Club must have been an Associate Member for at least three years and be playing in or above the Premier Division of either the Isthmian, Southern or Northern Premier Football Leagues. Under FA Rule A3.1 and A3.2 an application to become a member of The FA must be received by 1 March in any calendar year. For further information on the application process please email clubgovernance@TheFA.com.
Please note that a Club does not have to be a member of The FA to play in competitions sanctioned by The FA. A Club must be affiliated to a county FA to do so.
Transfers of memberships
In order to be entitled to play football in a competition recognised by The FA a club must be affiliated to a county FA and be a member of a league. In addition a club may hold either associate or full membership of The FA.
It is these memberships that entitle a club to play and meet fixtures in its name. The memberships are not transferable without the respective authority of each football body. If the memberships are to be transferred from one legal entity to another, such as on incorporation or following insolvency, then the rules of the league of which the club is a member will have minimum requirements that must be met. For those clubs in the National League System, Rule 2.9 of the Standardised Rules sets out these requirements. If the club is a member of The FA, then FA Rule A3.7 shall also be applied.
FA Rules in relation to a Club’s Financial Records and Constitution
FA Rules I1 sets out the financial records that a club is required to maintain and prepare. This includes a requirement for a club to prepare annual accounts.
FA Rule I2.1 states that a club must have a written constitution in a form acceptable to The FA and that is capable of complying with FA Rules. A club must not be a sole trader (ie an individual). FA Rule I2.1 sets out requirements that a club is to include in its constitution. This includes provisions to ensure that those at a club conduct themselves in accordance with the Rules and Regulations of The FA; that any proposed changes to a club’s articles or Rules require the advance approval of The FA; that the position of Director, Officer or Official at a club is vacated if such a person is subject to a decision of The FA that suspends that person from holding office or from taking part in any football activity relating to the administration or management of a club; how the distribution of any surplus is to be made on the winding up of a club; and that a club is required to give The FA prior notification of an alteration to its constitution or a material change to its financial structure.
A Guide to Directors’ Duties and Obligations
When an individual is appointed as a director of a football club, it is sometimes his or her first experience of being a company director. The legal duties associated with being a director of a football club are the same as those of any other company. This Guide aims to provide an overview of what these duties and responsibilities are and practical steps on how to meet those duties and responsibilities.
You can download the Guide from the Resources section below.
Club Structures has been prepared to provide guidance to clubs in the National League System of the different types of legal structure through which a club can operate, such as an unincorporated association (members club) or limited company. The Guide sets out the most commonly used structures that a club may wish to adopt together with some advantages and disadvantages of each. The Guide also sets out a step by step process to be followed for a club that wishes to set itself up as a company. You can access the online Guide here: https://the-fa.com/clubstructuresguide
Payments to Contract and Non-contract Players
The FA has rules that clubs are required to follow when making payments to contract and non-contract players. The FA has produced guidance to assist semi-professional clubs in meeting their requirements under FA Rules. The Guide also assists semi-professional clubs in meeting their legal requirements when applying PAYE and national insurance to payments to contract and non-contract players. It is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to address all issues that may arise in the application of PAYE and national insurance to payments to players, but does include references to where further help and information may be found. Clubs are encouraged to seek professional advice or to contact their local H M Revenue & Customs office in the application of PAYE and national insurance to payments to contract and non-contract players.
You can download the Guide from the resources section below.
Any queries in relation to the content of this Guide should be addressed to The FA at clubgovernance@TheFA.com.
Advice for clubs in the National League System
Clubs in the National League System are directed to the following websites that include advice in various areas such as sponsorship and marketing support, media support and e-learning opportunities on finance, club structures and other subjects.
You can also download a Guide to Governance for Clubs in the National League System and Large Community Clubs from the resource section below.