The proposal of a Club Licensing system within the member nations of UEFA was first presented in Autumn 2000. UEFA proposed a model European standard for football and after consultation with those nations; the final UEFA proposals were approved in 2002.
The Football Association of Wales has worked tirelessly to produce its Club Licensing Manual, which was accredited by UEFA in June 2003. The manual is transparent and consistent to UEFA standards, although the Association was permitted to submit some exceptions, which were thankfully granted and are discussed later.
The benefits of the system are never-ending, as the system sets out quality standards and procedures by which clubs will be assessed for continual improvement. Evidently, the focus is on establishing a higher set of standards within Welsh domestic football, which subsequently benefits all concerned in the football community, from spectators to stakeholders and players to physiotherapists.
The standards are presented in the form of five criteria headings, which are Infrastructure, Sporting (Youth and Coaching), Legal, Personnel & Administration and Financial.
In October 2006, a second FAW UEFA Club Licensing Manual was accredited after UEFA decided that the system needed to be improved and the Criteria made even more stringent. The FAW manual is more than a 150-page document and consequently, it would be both impossible and uninspiring for me to articulate in this editorial, every criterion within the manual, but I will endeavour to highlight those, which I consider are the most significant.
The Infrastructure category has been revamped and made consistent with the UEFA Club Competition Criteria for Stadia. Clubs must have a ground, whether it is their own or another in Wales, which is eligible to stage UEFA Club Competition matches. This means that it should have at least 1,000, individual and fixed seats for First Qualifying Round matches and then 3,000 seats thereafter.
The Sporting element of the licensing procedure is concerned with coaching and youth development. Each club shall have a minimum of two youth teams between the ages of 16 and 19, with one at Under 15 and one at Under 10. A new introduction for the Second Version of the Licensing Manual is the Criteria relating to Player Medicals. All players who play for the First Team in the Welsh Premier League must undergo a Personal Medical Examination, including an Echocardiogram and an ECG.
The third section is concerned with the legal entity of the club. The Club must have in place Club Statutes, it must play in recognised FAW Competitions, abide by Licensing Regulations, supply the Association with its authorised signatories and also must provide Security of Tenure for the ground they wish to play their European fixtures in.
Administratively, the club will have to appoint a General Manager, a Club Secretary, a Financial Officer, a Head of Security and a Head of Youth Development at the very least, in order to meet with the licence guidelines. It is also essential that a certified Doctor and a Chartered Physiotherapist are available at all home games. The Team Manager must have a Pro Licence, be studying for a Pro Licence or have five years Certificate of Competence in the Welsh Premier.
All of the clubs should observe good financial practice, and they will have to provide the Licensor with a copy of their audited financial statements by the end of February. The clubs must not have any overdue payables from transfer activities or towards employees. Failure to achieve this would result in the rejection of a license.
A final element of the licensing procedure is concerned with codes of practice. These are not essential, but are seen as best practice. Although not a requirement by UEFA, the FAW sees the Codes of Practice as a great way to improving certain standards in Welsh domestic football. The section includes child and coach protection, the supporter's charter, equity issues, community involvement and fair play. Some examples of the criteria within this section are that clubs should identify a Child Protection Officer and also annually review its supporter's charter. They should demonstrate their support for various campaigns aimed at addressing equity issues, through their newsletters or match programmes as well as promoting community activity. Finally, clubs shall be able to demonstrate a support of the Fair Play principle.
All Welsh Premier League clubs have undergone the licensing process since the 2003/2004 Season with the first licensed clubs being announced in April 2004. The Independent First Instance Body only granted a Licence to Newtown AFC but Rhyl FC, TNS, Haverfordwest County and Aberystwyth Town were all granted a Licence upon appeal in May. This figure rose to eight Licensed clubs the following year, then nine in 2005/06 and in the last cycle under the First Licensing Manual, a record twelve achieved the Licence in 2006/07.
It is also important to mention that a Special Licence can be applied for by a club, who has qualified for a UEFA Competition based on its sporting achievements from outside the Welsh Premier League, (i.e. by winning the Welsh Cup) in order to be eligible to participate in European competition in the following season.
Consequently, there has been a lot of work and liaising between the member clubs and the Association's Licensing team since the introduction of the system in season 2003/2004. However, the benefits to be gained for all concerned within the Welsh football community, certainly warrants the commitment and dedication required.
If anyone would like any more information regarding the Club Licensing procedure, please do not hesitate to contact firstname.lastname@example.org, the Licensing department via email or by telephone on 02920 435 830.
Club Licensing Manager
Football Association of Wales Licensing Staff
For the full list of UEFA Licensed Clubs, please click here.
For more info on UEFA Club Licensing & Financial Fair Play, please click here.