The Lionesses’ Chloe Kelly broke records with a penalty that sped above 110kph in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™. But world-class players aren’t the only ones performing at speed. Football clubs up and down the country have plenty to do – coordinating travel, balancing budgets, managing volunteers, and securing sponsorship.
Shrey Nilvarna, Fan Engagement and Community Officer at Lewes FC, knows exactly what it’s like to operate in such a dynamic environment. In this short guide, we hear from Shrey about the eight operational tasks every club needs to master.
One: Brushing up on rules and regs
A pivotal task for any football club is brushing up on the match day rules and regulations.
For every match, the FA and the league will have specific requirements. The rules and regulations can dictate things like which pitch boards need to be up on match day, and the kind of behaviour that dictates yellow or red cards, and what kit is allowed.
"Our players typically wear white grip socks. But we’ll have matches where we need to wear black socks instead,” Shrey explains. Referees need to use those colours to identify a tackle, so getting it right matters. In some cases, players are sent back to the dressing room if they’re wearing the wrong colours."
Failing to meet the legal requirements – for example, not registering a player in time for the match – is cause for a fine. So general managers need to be hands-on when it comes to the rules and regulations, knowing who got a yellow card and who needs a fine paid on their behalf. This typically falls to the general manager.
“Having the right person in that role is critical because they’re the link between senior management, the board, and the players,” Shrey explains. “If the general manager isn’t a good communicator, there’s a possibility for disconnect between the club and the team.”
Two: Clear club comms
Shrey and the Lewes FC team combine multiple platforms with precise roles and responsibilities to achieve clear club comms.
"The board specifically uses Slack. We have a separate WhatsApp group for back office staff. There's also a group for the whole team – players and staff members, and a couple of the back office team,” Shrey explains. “A handful of people are in all three groups, so if information needs to move between them, it can."
The system means team members can access the information they need, at exactly the right time. Defined roles and responsibilities ensure that people know exactly who to go to, and for what.
"At the beginning of the season, we have a session where everyone comes together to share who they are, what they do, and circumstances where they might come to you,” Shrey explains. “It's about having clarity, and clear channels to communicate."
Some tasks and responsibilities are likely to be shared across the club, but defined channels of communication mean there are contingencies in place if people are unsure who to go to. "The football environment is so dynamic,” Shrey shares. “It's not enough to know what you do, or what your manager does. People need to know how the entire system operates, so someone can step in if something is missing."
Three: Perfecting payroll
Football players are paid a weekly wage, so pay runs need to be completed more frequently than other staff wages.
This increased administrative burden means clubs have to juggle timesheets, bonuses and deductions every week.
“There’s payroll information coming from all over the club – from the CEO and the back office to the men's and women's teams, hospitality and bar staff members,” Shrey explains. “Some players have clauses in their contracts, like bonuses for goals or clean sheets. Matchday staff are paid an hourly rate, and their hours can fluctuate.”
The team at Lewes FC takes a tiered approach to payroll, where managers take responsibility for their teams’ payroll concerns.
“There are processes set for each department on how payroll information needs to be relayed,” Shrey shares. “And there are people in charge who are responsible for relaying that information. For example, the bar manager makes sure bar team hours are accounted for.”
Timesheets are prepared by Shrey, who forwards them to a director for an added level of checks. Shrey highlights any changes, notes and deductions in an email.
“When I make the payment, I know it's been checked multiple times. I took on payroll from our previous finance manager, and it was so easy because the systems were set up properly. I just slotted myself into the process.”
Four: Coordinating travel
If the team takes off, you could be heading to a few different grounds for matches. So nailing the travel plans is an important task for any football club.
“Travelling requires a lot of admin,” Shrey says. “You need to check plans with the coaching staff first – will we train in the morning and then take the bus? Are we going directly to the grounds? Which players will travel from our grounds, and who needs picking up on the way?”
Clubs should set out match day itineraries at least two days in advance, according to Shrey. Players and coaching staff need plenty of notice, so they can organise their timings too.
“We share specific timings for every activity – for example, when players need to be there to warm up, or to see a medic for strapping up. You're coordinating 25 different people on a week-in and week-out basis, so having those set timelines in place makes it much easier.”
Five: Accounts, budgets and software
While premier league clubs might show the glamorous side of football, most teams have smaller margins to manage.
The right systems and software make it much easier to balance the accounts and stay within budget, according to Shrey.
“You need processes that are set in stone,” Shrey advises. “Let’s say a bar manager forgets to send in the timesheets and they don’t get processed for payroll. I can check our processes, pinpoint what went wrong, and explain why it wasn’t processed.”
As a one-person finance team, Shrey relies on systems and software that can ease the administrative burden.
“Traditional accounting software required you to manually type in data,” Shrey says. “We use Xero at the club, and it’s so easy to track your payables and receivables. I can see how much we’ve paid certain suppliers, or what we have due with a couple of clicks. Xero automatically sends invoice reminders when payments are due, so I don't need to manually send emails."
Finding software that can help you not only manage the day-to-day but plan for the future, will help your club continue to thrive. Shrey uses Xero’s budget tracking tool and reports to ensure the club is making the most of their resources.
“At any organisation, you have operating budgets, and these can last three to five years. With a football club your budget changes every season – so that’s every year. Budget tracking is crucial in the club environment, and you need flexible software to help you understand what you’re spending,” Shrey says.
Six: Serving sponsors
Managing sponsorships typically falls to the commercial manager, but there are critical admin and operational tasks that involve the whole club.
“If someone’s agreement says a player will warm up in a t-shirt with their logo, that needs to be communicated to the relevant people,” Shrey explains. “The kit person needs to know which shirt should be laid out, the comms manager needs to take pictures and share them on social media.”
Once you’ve completed the hard work of securing a sponsor, Shrey emphasises the importance of meeting contractual requirements quickly.
“Making sure the contract is signed and stored centrally, and the invoice is raised and paid are the first steps,” Shrey explains. “The longer the timeline between signing and delivering, the less impact the campaign has. If a sponsor signs in July, and their pitchboard isn’t ready until December, they only have a few months before the season ends in June.”
Ensure you have a contract storage system in place, and revisit sponsorship agreements regularly – to check your partners are getting exactly what they ask for.
Seven: Managing volunteers
Most clubs rely on a team of volunteers to keep operations running smoothly. Lewes FC is no different.
“We have match day volunteers and non-match day volunteers – the latter come in and help with tasks like painting the fence or tending the community garden,” Shrey shares.
Clubs should start by assessing their needs before recruiting volunteers. Shrey recommends auditing the roles you need to cover on a match day and building a volunteer structure around that.
“You need to be clear in your head what a match day looks like for you,” Shrey recommends. “Then you can start building a pool of volunteers. If you need 10 people every match day, you should have a pool of 20 volunteers to call on. Bear in mind – not everyone will be available every match day.”
Training and support are essential – don’t throw new volunteers in the deep end. And since people will be giving up their time for free, clubs must acknowledge and reward their generosity.
“We give volunteers free drink tokens and host social events for them throughout the season, including invites to the players and staff Christmas and end-of-season parties,” Shrey shares. “At the end of last season, we awarded engraved and collectable keyrings for them to carry around and proudly show that they’re a valued volunteer.”
According to Shrey, the most important operational skill for clubs to master is prioritisation.
“Some tasks are basic admin – checkbox tasks. Others have a cascading impact on other things. Clubs need to accept that they can’t do everything in one day, and think about what needs to happen first,” Shrey suggests.
Clear communication with colleagues goes a long way towards making sure the right things get done at the right times, as does ensuring you have the right software in place to take care of day-to-day admin.
“You also need to learn to say no,” Shrey advises. “There is always so much more we can do, but the more we take on, the less likely we are to do it well. Our number one priority has to be getting matches on and it’s important to bear that in mind when prioritising.”
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