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Saturday 01 May 2010
FA Charter Standard Community Club Award

This article appeared in the Altrincham home game match programme on 6 March 2010.

Today, the award of FA Charter Standard will be formally made to the club on the pitch at half-time by the Chief Executive of the London FA, David Fowkes. We are delighted to welcome a number of other representatives of the local community and youth football scene to join with us in our celebration.

The award covers all the youth areas of the club -- the boys’ Youth Development Programme and the girls’ sections for our elite players, and the Community Football Scheme (CFS) for all other youth football activities. The FA Charter Standard Club Programme has three levels, and the “Community Club” level that we have achieved is the highest possible. This is a testament to how far we have come as club in the six years since the boys’ teams and the CFS were set up.

The target of achieving FA Charter Standard for our Youth and Community section has been a Dons Trust aim for several years, but when we were setting that target we didn’t really appreciate just how big an undertaking it would turn out to be. To give you some idea of the scale of the task that was facing us, our register of club coaches has 45 names on it, and each coach had to meet the strict requirements laid down by the FA.

Last April, after a number of attempts to prepare an application had stalled, the Assistant Manager of our Under-18s, Mark Hudson, was appointed to project-manage the whole effort. Mark worked very hard to get everyone to do what was necessary and to ensure that our structures and accounts were in line with the strict requirements of the FA for the appropriate level of the Charter Standard. It is remarkable to think that the original target to get everything done was around three months; in the end it took six months. The application was submitted to the London FA in October, and we received confirmation of the award in November.

AFC Wimbledon is affiliated to the London FA as its parent Football Association (the club is also affiliated to the Surrey FA), and the officers of the London FA have been extremely helpful and supportive while we were working towards the final award. Particular thanks go to Emma Barnes, who we are delighted can be with us for today’s presentation.

What does the Charter Standard mean?

The FA Charter Standard club programme was established in February 2001 and aims to demonstrate that grassroots clubs have the necessary infrastructure to provide a great environment for football development, and also brings the clubs a number of benefits:

• The club is well run and has a sustainable structure that supports and rewards volunteers.
• It provides a safe and effective environment for players and volunteers to develop their skills and continue their involvement in football.
• The local community can see that you have the FA Charter Standard and are supporting the FA Charter Standard club programme.
• The club has access to the FA Charter Standard in-service programmes for coaches and volunteers organised by county FAs.
• The award significantly increases the opportunities to receive external funding from sports agencies.
• The club can use the FA Charter Standard logo to promote itself.
• The club receives free England Under-21, Youth and Women’s match tickets.
• There is access to discounted Umbro kit and equipment.

What did we have to do?

The first step was to pull together all the information, processes and procedures in operation across the youth, community and girls’ sections and standardise them in accordance with the requirements of the Charter Standard. Only after completing this could we determine what level of the Standard we could aim for.

We considered that the club was sufficiently advanced in certain areas of the Charter Standard process for us to aim for the pinnacle of the programme, the Charter Standard Community Club award. Setting this ambitious target gave us much to do, and we also had to take on board changes made to the Charter Standard criteria introduced by the FA while we were preparing our application.

The Community Club award is the ultimate FA Charter Standard goal. It demonstrates that a club has a high-quality, multi-team (minimum of 10 teams) set-up with a clear development pathway and excellent social, training and playing opportunities for all.

The number of Community Clubs is one of the truest measures of success for the FA’s Football Development Strategy. There are now approximately 3,400 FA Charter Standard clubs, of which around 350 are Community Clubs. AFC Wimbledon is one of only 10 such clubs affiliated to the London FA to receive this award.

In summary, this was what had to be done before we could submit our application:

• The formation of the AFC Wimbledon Youth and Community Football Committee, chaired by Youth and Community Director Nigel Higgs.
• A child protection policy and procedure adopted.
• Codes of conduct for team officials, players, managers, coaches, parents and spectators adopted.
• A team membership registration list drawn up.
• Medical record and consent forms for all players obtained.
• Establishing a volunteers register to include coaching qualifications, first aid certificates, and Criminal Record Bureau checks to maintain up-to-date certification.
• Drawing up a three to five-year Football Development Plan to include team development, workforce development (staff, coaches, referees, volunteers) school--club links, links between girls and women’s football, football for disabled people, and communication and marketing.

To get all this done was a real team effort, and Mark was supported by the various heads within the club with responsibility for youth football, who will all be on the pitch to receive the award:

• Nigel Higgs, Youth and Community Director
• Eileen Samuelson, Club Welfare Officer
• Mark Hudson, Project Manager and Under-18 Assistant Manager
• Mark Robinson, Head of the Senior Academy
• Mark Smith-Lachie, Community Football Scheme Manager
• Jeremy Sauer, Head of the Junior Academy
• John Ivers, Ladies and Girls Club Secretary

To show you what this is all about, at half-time a small representative group of players from our Community Advanced Centre, Junior Academy and girls’ section will be performing various ball skills and drills on the pitch. We have invited a number of guests to attend the presentation of the plaque and certificate on the pitch and to have the chance to talk to the coaches about what the award means to them.

At the time of writing we are expecting the following guests, who represent the groups we work with in delivering football-related opportunities to the local community and ultimately making this award possible.

From the London Borough of Merton:
Mayor Cllr Nick Draper
Mayoress Sheila Draper
Councillor David Simpson
Councillor Maxi Martin

From the FA

Ben Bartlett, Regional Coach Development Manager, South East

From the London FA
David Fowkes, CEO
Emma Barnes, Women’s and Girls’ Football Development Manager
David James, Senior Development Officer
James Kennedy, Education Officer and Head of Marketing and Communications

From the Football Foundation
Rory Carroll, Communications Manager

From the Surrey Youth League
Roy Lomax, President
Pam Lomax, Vice President

Please show your appreciation of all the work done by the youth section staff and volunteers that has made this award possible. As the club progresses up the football pyramid and gets nearer our goal of re-entering the Football League, it is worth bearing in mind that this is an award that is not available to League clubs -- so we may have got it just in time!