In Focus: Club Development Framework Model For The Sports Industry

In any sport, cultivating and enhancing clubs is crucial. Whether amateur, semi-professional or professional, ensuring long-term survival demands strategic focus. To aid amateur (recreational/community), and semi-professional clubs, Geoff Wilson has devised a framework model.


While clubs can aspire to embracing the entire framework, it is crucial to note that clubs do vary in terms of ambition, professionalism, size and resources, and as such some pillars will be more applicable than others.


Clubs must prioritise the key pillars based on their circumstances. Expanding into other pillars is encouraged as the club grows and develops.


The model, featuring eleven pillars and three ‘enablers’, provides a framework of development for amateur and semi-professional clubs.


The 11 pillars are:

Governance, Admin & Finance:

– Governance: Clubs legal structure, club internal bodies (AGM, board, committees), key policies & procedures, stakeholder management/mapping, constitution, safeguarding.


– Admin: Organizational chart, clear roles defined for staff and volunteers, administrative duties (e.g., player registration, fixture coordination, event management), volunteer and staff recruitment and training, event or game organisation etc.


– Financial Management: Setting up a bank account, managing payments, establishing annual budgets, regular financial reports, audited accounts.


Strategic Planning:

– Creation of a roadmap or plan for the club, defining vision, mission (purpose), goals, objectives.


Club Culture & Values:

– Clearly defining what the club stands for and cultivating the culture within the club.


Senior Squad Development:

– Focus on senior squads – retaining and acquiring players, player development, scouting, incorporating technology (e.g., player analysis during games), physio and rehabilitation.



– Coaching structure in place (coaching committee, academy or technical director etc), recruitment of great coaches, education and training for all coaches (youth to senior levels), agreed style of play for the club, continuous professional development for current coaches, weekly training and session plans.


Community Engagement:

– Being a community club, fostering internal and external connections within the wider community.


Promotion and Comms:

– Digital communications (social media, messaging, maintaining the club website), promoting events inside and outside the club, media relations and defining a unique brand.


Youth Player Pathways:

– Establishing teams at youth level (i.e. U6 to U19) and focusing on player development and welfare.


Club Membership and Supporters:

– Retaining and acquiring members and supporters, utilizing member skills within the club and increasing game day attendance.


Game Day Experience:

– Improving the overall experience on game days, ensuring the club is welcoming.


Environmental and Sustainability:

– Addressing the club’s environmental impact, working towards sustainability and reducing the carbon footprint.



Enablers – Key Areas Across All Pillars:

People: Recruiting and retaining quality staff and volunteers (emphasizing the influence and importance of having quality staff and volunteers working within the club).


Facilities/Venue: Pitch/court and building maintenance, facility development and acquisition of necessary facilities.


Income and Funding: Managing sponsorship, game day and non-game day revenue, merchandise sales and securing additional grant funding.



Case Study Example; Crumlin United FC 

Crumlin United FC from Northern Ireland exemplifies the framework’s application:


Governance, Admin & Finance: The club has recently updated their constitution and introduced structures within the club with regular financial reporting in place. In addition, the club is set up as two legal entities, one focused on football, the other as a community organisation.


Strategic Planning: A strategic plan is in place that the board is now following.


Club Culture & Values: The club has set clear values of being a community organisation, opening up the club house and facilities to a wide range of local organisations.


 Senior Squad Development: Three senior teams play each week with a focus on player development during organised training sessions.


Coaching: 26 Coaches have recently undergone an accreditation training and education course and from time to time the club has held internal coach education sessions for shared learning.


Community Engagement: The club currently engages with nine community organizations weekly.


Promotion and Communications: The club is active on social media and promote various events held in the Clubhouse to members, supporters, players and the local community.


Youth Player Pathways: A strong academy structure is in place with a clear style of play being implemented across all the teams.


Club Membership and Supporters: There are over 80 full members and an official Crumlin United FC supporters club.


Game Day Experience: The club’s facilities are well-kept and a welcoming atmosphere for all players, supporters and visitors.


Environmental and Sustainability: Eco-friendly initiatives like eco boilers and LED lights have been installed.  The club are also embarking on other environmental initiatives.


In terms of people, the board is made up of professionals who volunteer their time to keep the club moving forward. This also includes quality coaches and groundsmen recruited at the club.


In terms of facilities the club owns a full-size grass pitch, ¾ 3G pitch and a clubhouse. The club is currently embarking on an innovative project to establish a £2 million community hub at the site.


Finally, in terms of income, grant funding, match day (ticketing, bar sales), sponsorship, members fees and event income ensures the club has the financial resources required each season.


By no means is the club perfect and some pillars are stronger than others, but the above should give you a practical case study on how the framework model can be applied within a club.


How can clubs use the framework?

There will be clubs that are just happy to ‘play for fun.’ These clubs should consider the three enablers and then identify the key pillars they must focus on to keep the club going each year.  This might include; Governance, Admin and Finance, Senior Squad Development, and Coaching (by way of an example).


For those clubs that wish to develop/progress/grow and have more resources at their disposal, they should review each pillar and ensure they are being implemented correctly within the club.


No matter the size of your club or how advanced it is, the club must have the right people involved in all pillars – a great club treasurer, a great coaching team, great board/committee members – as great people will make a massive impact on the development of the club.


For clubs wishing to develop, they should:


1. Meet as a board/club to discuss where they want their club to be in the future.


2. As a group, go through the various pillars and enablers – scope out and agree on the key areas required under each pillar for your club (I have mentioned several areas above under each pillar). So for example;

         Pillar selected – Coaching

         Identify the key areas under the coaching pillar – Coaching structure in place, education and training for all coaches, agreeing a style of play for the club, continuous professional development for current coaches, weekly training and session plans. Feel free to identify other areas. 

         Grade each area accordingly in terms of very poor, poor, average, good or very good. For example;

Pillar:  Coaching
Key area Rating
 Coaching structure in place       GOOD
 Education and training for all coaches POOR
 Agreed style of play for the club       VERY GOOD
 Continuous professional development for current coaches         VERY POOR
 Weekly training and session plans  GOOD
(repeat the process above for the other pillars)  


3. Based on the grading of the key areas within each pillar, identify the gaps and areas that need strengthening for your club i.e. using the example given above, continuous professional development for current coaches is an area requiring attention alongside the education and training for all coaches in your club.


4. After analysing the selected pillars, create a plan and assign resources.


5. Monitor the progress of the plan every quarter at your board meetings.


6. Conduct a review in twelve months’ time to identify progress made and to ensure strong implementation.


Ultimately, with the right people involved in the pillars, clubs can embark on a journey of strengthening and growing, supported by this framework model.


About Geoff Wilson

Geoff runs his own consultancy business, with a focus primarily on sport.  Previously Head of Marketing and Communications at the Irish FA, Geoff now consults to a wide range of global sports organisations on areas such as strategic planning, marketing and communications, digital, fans engagement, public affairs, women’s football, league development, club development and knowledge sharing / capacity building programmes. Geoff has created numerous academic models for the sports industry. Geoff is on the Advisory Panel at the English Football League and Chair of the Sports Council Trust Company (Sport England organisation)


Image: Konstantin Evdokimov on Unsplash