Leadership and Management at grassroots football clubs


Leadership and management are crucial to the success of any organisation, a football club is certainly is no different. Given the voluntary nature of our clubs and the environment and society we live in today, clubs have to earn support and involvement.....which all starts from effective leadership.  

Far too often we hear the Chair of a sports club complaining about the lack of support from the local community, the governing body, the Government etc., and when you investigate further it frequently emerges that the club is not engaging with anybody outside its own ranks and even within its own ranks there is a lack of direction, delegation and accountability. 

Lack of skills

Far too often we involve people in our clubs simply because they are former players, coaches, supporters or because 'there is no one else offering their services'! Adopting this attitude for key club leadership positions can have drastic consequences given the influence these positions have over the operation and future of the club. 


Clubs need to identify the right roles to lead and manage their clubs, identify the skillsets required to undertake these roles effectively and then identify the right people that possess these skillsets that would fit these roles. 

If you want to get the best Treasurer why not ask one of your players parents who are accountants or have a background in financial management. You are offering an individual a role which suits their skillsets and  should be comfortable with but has significant benefits your club. If you want somebody to support your clubs communication, why not approach your local college or university and ask some of the media/journalism students to support this piece of work. The ambitious/good students will relish the experience.

Can do club vs can't do club

Regardless of the level, your club is playing at, ambition and professionalism on and off the pitch is a pre-requisite. Professionalism is not about money, it is about attitude.

Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company said 'If you think you can or you think you can't......you're right' to emphasise how much attitude determines success or failure. 

A club with a can-do attitude as opposed to one with a can’t do attitude will grow and prosper. Can do clubs have a buzz about them. People are happy and busy. They know what success is and why it’s important. They’re also clear that they have to deliver – that the buck stops with them. Can do clubs have a confidence about them that inspires people to try new initiatives, safe in the knowledge that their club is the sort of club that can do things.

How often have we heard comments from people within the club when someone puts forward a new idea along the lines of: ‘we tried that 17 years ago’, ‘it may have worked at other clubs or in other sports’, ‘it would never work here’, ‘this is not the way to do things at a sports club’. Within Can do Clubs there is mutual respect between the people with the insight and the people with the ideas and they move forward together.

Your club's culture, vision and values

Culture is the everyday reality of club life. The culture is not the mission statement, the vision, your bank balance or the club handbook, though all those contribute to creating it. The culture is what we say and do, the way we behave, the way treat each other, our coaches, our players, our parents and our community. In essence, it's the 'personality' of the organisation. 


The more - and more effectively - we teach people that we are looking for in our culture, the more like it will become reality. A strong culture will ensure a club's strategy or vision will come to life. At club gatherings and meetings always talk about what culture you want to see in your club. Describe the way you'd like things to be working. Talk about the informal ways you envision people working together, the way you want people to be treated as valued customers, etc.

You may not currently have complete agreement across your club as to what kind of culture you would like to have at your club, It that is the case, get together leaders and stakeholders of your club together to discuss and agree on what your desired culture is and then write it down. Alongside this process you can discuss and agree on the direction of travel for your club i.e. 'what you want your club to achieve or work towards' - THE VISION FOR YOUR CLUB.  During the process you can start to identify some core values that will underpin the overall management and operation of your club. 

Some questions that will help you determine your club's culture and vision during a discussion with leaders and stakeholders are 'What is your club for?', 'How do you want your club to be perceived in the community?' and 'If your club was a person, how would they act?'

Don't be afraid to have an open consultation process with existing players, parents and supporters when developing the club's culture and vision. They will feel valued and a sense of belonging in being asked to influence and shape the direction of their club. 

Once you have agreement, putting it in writing and communicating your vision and culture for your club is an essential element in making it successful. This communication and will help make your key stakeholders (players, parents, supporters and sponsors) aware of what your club stands for and will have an impact on whether they connect themselves with your club. 

Live it

A  club's vision defines where you want your club to go and what you want to achieve, a culture defines what you do to achieve your club's vision. Club values are the principles or standards of behaviour you adopt as a club to achieve your vision. If we don't live it's never going to play out as we want.

Leaders within clubs have to understand that people within, and often also outside, the club see and hear everything you do and say. The more you talk to newcomers, the more you are sending out messages that yours is a welcoming club.

How you handle difficult situations is one of the biggest contributors to the creation of your club's culture. It's easier to build a culture when everything is going well. But strong cultures are partially built by what we do during hard times. When money is tight, how do we act? When we make a mistake, how do we own up and learn from it?


To analyse the progress of your club in achieving your vision, living your values and operating under the culture you have identified, conduct some surveys, meetings and events with your key stakeholders to analyse their experience of your club. 


Everyone in the club - not just those in key leadership positions - are responsible for a positive club culture and buying into a clubs vision, however it the development and on-going implementation is driven by key club leaders through effective management.