Club Operation

There is no one-size-fits-all way to run a soccer club. In this section we outline a few different steps that might be part of the journey for your club. We also have interviews with staff who have taken their organization through various stages, including Jared Spires who runs one of the largest and most successful clubs in Colorado.

A large number of soccer clubs in the United States are non-profit organizations. Many are required to be to have access to the league or state body that they belong to. Others operate as traditional for-profit businesses and more recently there are clubs who do both.

Non-Profit

For the traditional club model, it is common to obtain non-profit status from your state government. To do this you must meet the following criteria: –

  • Your Articles of Association must specific that no part of the assets will benefit any of the membership or staff.
  • You must have a legal charitable purpose – in this case to support educational activities.

Employees can be paid, but any profits must not be given out as dividends, but must be spent on the purpose for which it was originally collected. Beyond these basic rules, you must also follow the specific code set by your state government. If it does this, and meets the requirements of the IRS, it can obtain 501©3 status and be exempt from paying taxes.

Generally, nonprofit organizations are required to have a board of directors with a minimum number of members, to have an annual general meeting, election process and to record and publish the proceedings of the meetings. For more information on this you should consult your state codes.

The advantages for being nonprofit are obviously not having to pay taxes, and gaining access to federation-controlled youth leagues. Disadvantages could include the instability of having to answer to a board of directors who change frequently, have agendas usually specific to their individual children, and may not understand the type of business they are making decisions about.

Profit Models

Whereas many clubs are required to have a nonprofit front end, there are plenty who don’t. Running an indoor facility or private training club allows you to create a business that functions as any other, with profits and less oversight from boards of directors or the IRS. You are required to pay taxes, but can often be more dynamic and responsive to change than a traditional nonprofit.

Many clubs now are keeping their traditional nonprofit to deal with the state/federation and creating a for profit business to run the staff and facilities elements of the business. The for profit club then charges the nonprofit for its services, allowing the club to make money but still comply with required regulations. Generally to take this approach you would have to have aspirations to grow to be a large club, with staff and turnover to make all of the extra accounting and legal work viable.

Bylaws

As a nonprofit you are expected to have bylaws that govern the day to day operation of your club. They need to be available for members to read, and a good way to do that is to have them published on your website. We recommend at a minimum having the following sections in your bylaws: –

  • Definition of voting members. Some clubs give each parent a vote. A risk associated with this, is that generally only a small number will show up to the annual meeting and you might find that a team or two can organize a coup or get a lot of changes pushed through with only a small number of majority votes. Some clubs give each team one vote to avoid this happening so easily – spreading the voice around a wider range but reducing the power of each individual member.
  • Board of Directors. Bylaws should establish how many members are on the board, how long their elected terms are, who can be on the board, how many terms they can be on the board, how they get elected and what they are responsible for.
  • Meetings. Bylaws should outline how often the club has meetings, when the annual meeting is, how special meetings are called, how many directors are required for a meeting to take place (quorum), and what the order of business should be at the meetings.
  • Financial Aspects. The bylaws should outline when the club’s fiscal year begins and ends, who can arrange and manage checks, deposits, loans and contracts.
  • Standing Committees. Most clubs will have various subcommittees responsible for different day-to-day club activities. These could include Executive, Financial, Election, Social, Grants, Tournament, Discipline, and Facilities committees.

Bylaws need to be a living document, being regularly updated to reflect changes to the landscape and club. Many organizations will create a bylaws committee to look at suggesting changes throughout the year. At the annual meeting any approved changes can then be voted on by the membership.

Organization Chart

Where many clubs fail is in not sufficiently defining who is responsible for what. Whether you have employees or volunteers it is important to have an overall plan for how things get done, who does them, and who makes sure that they are done. Creating an organization chart will allow you to do quickly see who reports to whom and make sure that everything is covered.

Generally, at the top of your nonprofit chart is the board of directors, complete with president, vice president and other directors. Below that might be staff (executive director, director(s) of coaching, administrators) or committees of volunteers. There may be groups that operate outside of the traditional chain (disciplinary committee etc.). Many clubs will publish this on the website too, showing members who to contact regarding specific issues, and who they go to if they are not happy with the service they are receiving.

Hiring Staff

Depending on your model, you might have one employee who is responsible for everything from registering players, to assigning referees, to coaching teams. Some clubs have no paid employees at all, relying solely on volunteers to do each of the tasks, often around their full time jobs outside the club. There are obviously advantages to each approach: –

  • Paying or not paying people;
  • Being able to hold them accountable for their action (or inaction!);
  • Having people on call at all hours of the day; and
  • Being able to interview and bring in people with special skills at the task, raising the quality.

There are many more factors to consider, but the chief one will likely be the size of your club, and therefore the budget you have. At some point you will cross over from being too small to be able to afford staff, to being too large to function without them. It is important to anticipate this stage before it happens, so you are ready with a plan in place.

Areas of Responsibility

The NSCAA runs a Director of Coaching course, which is designed to teach staff at a club. What is interesting about the course is that a lot of the areas covered (administration, financial, legal, executive) are not roles you would expect in the job description of a director of coaching. This is because for many small clubs the title is just a starting point – the reality is that they are the captain of the whole ship and no job is too small as there is no one to delegate anything to!

As clubs get bigger they can bring in more staff to take over the administration, accounting, and the overall club management (executive director), freeing up the director of coaching to actually manage the coaching staff. Once clubs get even bigger then will need several such directors, each for different player genders, ages or levels.

At the start you are likely to need an administrator. This can be a thankless task, working on getting players registered, setting up leagues, practices, fields, collecting payments, arranging meetings and scheduling games. There are times of the year when the job is busier than others, but a good administrator finds ways to spread the load throughout the year (planning ahead) and brings in volunteer staff to help at the busy times (tryouts, registration, uniforms etc.).

Once a club grows beyond a handful of teams you will push into the territory of needing a financial/accounting employee. This person can take care of staff wages, collecting revenue, dealing with scholarships, purchases and tracking budgets. Each year they produce the financial reports for the annual meeting, and liaise with any outside auditing groups.

Eventually (or early on!) the board becomes too slow and unresponsive for the needs of the club. Waiting for a month or even for people to check their hobby email can waste days of work. At this stage it can become advantageous to hire an Executive Director. This person can run the club, allowing the board to step back into an advisory and evaluation role. They make day-to-day decisions, hire staff, manage the group and set long term targets. In some clubs they implement the instructions of the board, in others they set the policy and get a freer rein to take the club where they believe it needs to go.

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