Community Asset transfer

How your club could own its own ground with a Community Asset Transfer.

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Community Asset Transfer is a growing trend across grassroots sport as clubs and organisations aim to become more sustainable amid a nationwide rise in pitch hire fees.

But what is it and how do clubs get involved?

Here, our Facilities and Collaboration Manager Kevin Moon answers your questions on the subject...

So What is Asset Transfer?

Quite simply, asset transfer is a transfer of responsibility, and possibly ownership, of a facility.

It usually comes from a local authority to a community organisation but those community organisations take various forms.

Asset transfer usually involves a building but in this context, we're talking about football clubs, and in the majority of cases, grass pitches, which is a slightly different scenario.

Why is is important for football clubs in Wales?

We're all aware of the budget constraints that local authorities are under, across a range of services. All authorities in Wales are looking to reduce expenditure and make savings. One of those areas is the maintenance of grass football pitches, hence the move towards transferring some of the liability for that maintenance.

This has a big effect on football clubs across Wales.

Across Wales pitch-hire fees are increasing and authorities are looking towards asset-transfer. This is particularly worrying for football clubs, where they have little access to increased revenue streams to cover the increase in pitch-hire.

Many of them are now looking for advice and guidance from ourselves and other organisations, such as Sport Wales, who can help.

What are the benefits?

The overall benefits can be dependent on the asset that's being transferred. In terms of football clubs, this is generally a grass pitch and maybe some changing rooms.

The overall benefits can be difficult to identify at an early stage. It's a longer-term plan for the majority of clubs who enter into the process but it can lead to a more sustainable club model, if appropriate planning can be achieved by clubs.

The full transfer of liability and responsibility is not the only option for clubs.

There are examples, from across Wales, of different self-management models, and these can be agreed with the local authority with a range of services being provided by the local authority and then that leads to a reduction in feed that clubs need to pay the local authorities.

Outright ownership and responsibility is the end of the spectrum but there are various stops along that line that clubs could take.
Those self-management models might suit different clubs in different situations.

We can provide guidance and assistance to everybody who needs it.

Who can apply for it?

In short, any community group.

Usually the local authority will have an expression of interest form that needs to be completed with some outline information about the business model and what the organisation plans to do with each facility.

That's usually the start of the process but it can be lengthy. This doesn't happen overnight and there are examples of projects easily taking two years to get to a conclusion.

What are the normal process and timescales?

If I was starting today, I would build in a timeline of about two years, particularly for football clubs.

You must first consider where the club or group are today, what their constitution is an their business plan moving forward.

They need to liaise with the local authority and do their own due-diligence and financial planning.

The application needs to go through various local authority departments for approval, including the legal department, if it is for football ownership.

If you add all that in, two years is probably the minimum that it will take.

This must be quite a scary process for clubs, so where do they start?

It is quite daunting for clubs because it's a completely new scenario for them.

The first question I would always ask is "How are you constituted and what is your legal definition?"

Clubs need to know whether they are a community interested company or a registered charity or a limited company. In fact, there are seven or eight types of legal entity that they could be and defining what they are at the beginning is sometimes the most important point.

That then leads to their aims and objectives and whether they have a memorandum or articles or a constitution and that should dictate their business plan moving forward.
Before applying for grants and looking for finance, that early discussion is the key consideration.

Where can clubs go for help?

There are a range of organisations who can help, especially with the initial guidance. At the FAW, we have a team working to provide services to clubs, be that business planning or advice on asset transfer or pitch maintenance.

Also, the local authority transferring the assets usually have some advice and support for organisations applying for asset transfer within their own departments.

Sport Wales' Club Solutions website is a very useful resource for grassroots clubs looking for information.

There's also the likes of Wales Co-op, the WCVA, Business Wales, the Coalfields Regeneration Trust and there's a Welsh Government toolkit that people can access.

In the first instance, for a football club, please contact me and I can signpost you to other organisations that can assist.

What about equipment and what come with the transfer?

There is a lot of equipment required that clubs might not think of at first.

Firstly consider the playing surface, most clubs don't have a mower, they might not have a white line machine, they almost certainly won't have a tractor or drainage equipment.
There are very few grants available to purchase equipment, which is a major difficulty with transfer of pitches but the equipment is something clubs could consider buying in when they need it, rather than purchasing it up-front.

Can asset transfer be done as a partnership?

It can be a partnership of different organisations, possibly different sports clubs, but they would all need to be part of whatever legal constitution is agreed at the outset to take the project forward.

Which clubs or organisations have really made this work?

Mumbles Rangers, in Swansea, are a very good example. They have taken over their Underhill Park ground, in partnership with Mumbles RFC.
It is a project they've been working on for several years and they have quite ambitious development plans.

They have worked closely with the local authority to take over the pitches and the changing rooms that were previously unfit for purpose.
They now have plans to expand to three or four pitches.

Also, there's the Neath Junior League, who have taken responsibility for managing the pitches and fixtures in their area, which is a model that has worked particularly well for them.

There are several clubs going through this process right now and they are all having different experiences, many are positive, some not so, but they'll all agree that it takes time and patience is the key.

Thanks to Sport Wales for their help compiling this article

Case Study - Mumbles Rangers

Mumbles Rangers have been playing at Underhill Park, along with Mumbles RFC, since 1950.

But in 2009 the FAW gold accredited club took the bold decision to attempt to take-over the park, in a joint venture with the rugby club, in what is known as a community asset-transfer.

The thriving club, which boasts more than 500 players in its 33 boys' and girls' teams, were desperate to upgrade the facilities at the Swansea Council owned park and wanted ownership of it, in order to safeguard their club's future.

"It's been a long process but we've learned we need the support of the community and to have a very strict business plan with strong leaders.

"We have to take the project a stage further. We have to improve the facilities for the people coming through."
To drive their project forward, the ambitious club enlisted the help of several professional organisations and partners, including the FAW Trust and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Wales.

"Planning has been a big issue but we've taken on people who have experience in these things.

"At the beginning, we thought we could do it ourselves but we soon realised that you need professional people to help with business cases, make planning applications and apply for charitable status. These things don't happen that easily."

– Chris Parkin MBE, Mumbles Rangers Chairman
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