Code of Governance for County FAs to be mandated from the 2025-26 season
In January 2020, we were very proud to be the first sport in England to launch a Code of Governance for our County Football Associations (County FAs) that built upon Sport England’s Code for Sports Governance for National Governing Bodies of Sport.
In complying with this Code, County FAs can ensure that their Associations are ran to the highest standards of corporate governance. These standards set out wide ranging benefits to County FAs and helps ensure their Boards, and other decision-making structures, are best equipped to deliver, safeguard and develop our National Game, ensuring it is a game for all.
We spoke to Tim Foster, The FA’s Head of Operations for Grassroots Football, about the Code ahead of the first National Governance Conference at St. George’s Park on Friday 23 June.
Q: Tim, the Code of Governance for County FAs was launched in January 2020. Can you tell us more about the Code and how it has been received by County FAs?
A: The Code of Governance for County FAs built upon the Sport England and UK Sport “A Code for Sports Governance” that was launched in 2016. This code was designed for the National Governing Bodies of Sport in England and set out the highest standards of governance for sport. We recognised the benefits of this Code and believed that as our National Game, football should apply the same standards of governance at a regional level, where County FAs do great work in developing and supporting the game. A working group, consisting of FA, County FA and Sport England representatives collaborated to apply a football lens to this Code. Great care was taken to ensure it wasn’t diluted; indeed, some requirements were fine-tuned to reflect our National Game and some new requirements were added specially for County Football Associations.
County FAs which have become compliant or are on their journey to compliance tell us of the impactful, tangible benefits it has brought to their associations. These include stronger boards and greater diversity of thinking, better internal controls, processes and stronger risk management as well as improved internal cultures. There are over 60 requirements, so the benefits are wide ranging and touch all areas of the Association.
Q: The Code is now being mandated from the 2025/26 season. What does this mean for County FAs and governance of grassroots football more generally?
A: This is great news for both grassroots football and for our County FAs. It really is a win-win scenario. In complying with the Code, County FAs are best placed to serve their communities and to deliver football that is safe, fun and truly for all. It also helps ensure the County FAs are sustainable businesses, meaning they can continue to deliver these essential services in years to come.
Q: How many County FAs are compliant with the Code currently and is there still more work to be done to set a gold standard across grassroots football?
A: As of the date of our first National Governance Conference on Friday 23 June, we have 14 out of 50 County FAs fully compliant with the requirements of the Code and they are strong advocates of the wide-ranging benefits it brings, having experienced these first-hand. Those benefits are detailed under five key areas; Structure, People, Communications, Standards & Conduct and Policies & Processes. In all there are 63 key requirements, all of which are evidence tested before a County FA is awarded compliant status. Once compliant, there is a process in place to ensure County FAs remain compliant and evidence any additional compliance with new requirements that may be introduced in the future as the Code evolves.
This is a fantastic achievement, and I am hugely impressed by how these County FAs have embraced the code, identified its benefits and prioritised it as an important piece of work. Football is a busy landscape, and it would be very easy for these County FAs to delay work on the code to deal with the many other pressing matters that arise from time to time. These early adopters have taken those steps now – not all of which are easy – to ensure they and their football communities are realising the benefits of Code compliance as soon as possible.
Many other County FAs are moving towards compliance and are making extremely positive progress – indeed many are already assessed as compliant with a large number of the requirements set out in the code. We are looking forward to awarding compliant status to many more County FAs in the near future.
Q: The FA is hosting a Code of Governance conference at St George’s Park today for County FAs. Can you tell us more about this?
A: I am delighted that we are hosting our first national governance conference. This is open to all County FA directors and lead executives, and we are hoping for around 200 attendees on the day.
The theme of the day is “Brilliant Boards” as County FAs are telling us that Boards are one of the most positively impacted areas of the code. So we will be focusing on how to build and maintain brilliant boards – and in doing so, building brilliant organisations.
We have some impressive speakers on the day, including Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Anwar Uddin MBE as well as representation from Independent Audit and The Sports Governance Academy. There’s a wealth of experience and knowledge that we will be sharing with the group. Importantly, it also allows our County FA network to meet with each other and share best practise and challenges together.
Q: What does best practice look like in this area and what do you hope to see in the future?
A: As the theme of the conference suggests, for me best practice primarily looks like high quality, diverse boards leading County Football Associations with effective strategies that deliver the best outcomes for their football communities. It’s really important to stress that diversity doesn’t just mean gender and ethnicity diversity – although of course that is obviously highly important - but also skills diversity, diversity of experiences, and diversity of approach that all together ensures potential blind spots are minimised, boards embrace new ideas and, by providing internal check and challenge, avoid the pitfalls of “group think”. It’s that importance of collective cognitive diversity.
There are many things on my “hope to see list” but number one is that I hope to see our combined County FAs director talent pool grow in diversity in all its forms, so that it truly represents our National Game and ensures County FAs are sustainable, successful businesses delivering to their communities what our National Game deserves – which is the best we have to offer.
Details of compliant County Football Associations can be found by looking out for the “Code compliant” badge on TheFA.com.
READ THE CODE OF GOVERNANCE