FA Futsal League restructuring – my expectations

Ever since I began in futsal in 2005 my aim has been to see English futsal grow. I’ve been on the FA Futsal League committee several times, have made some impact there with changes and proposals, including running the first Under-18s tournament. I also started BUCS which is now the biggest competition in the UK and a breeding ground for futsal players and most recently I got the league a new logo and branding – not sure how much of that will survive this restructure, we’ll see – but I am proud of my contributions so far and continue to help via my newsletter and sharing of sessions etc.

First ever Under-18s FA Futsal Championship

I’m currently in Malta working in the Premier League here where futsal is more serious and professional. This is a nation that is 60 places below England in the World Rankings and has a population of less than half a million. So really England SHOULD be able to have a thriving futsal league. I’d love to return one day, as I did when Tranmere took me from Spain, but my minimum requirement is that the clubs and league are serious. By serious I mean where they train 3 or more times per week, the players are fully committed and futsal comes first…

FA Futsal League restructure

Today the FA Futsal League will announce some changes to the way the National Futsal League is ran. Once again a “restructuring” only 2 years after the last one when it moved to a full on national league and clubs applied to be in it.

I’m all for restructuring until we get it right but I hope that the clubs who have earned their place at the top table still have that chance to compete for the title. I think that’s only fair. However, they will need to step up if the restructure comes with more stringent criteria for clubs being in the top league.

I don’t necessarily think the current set up is bad, but it certainly needs an evolution. A 12 team top tier should be the perfect “elite” league with lower tiers feeding into it. However, the FA Futsal League (committee) haven’t really handled it properly and I don’t think THEY were ready for it. The clubs have taken advantage of this in several ways – postponing fixtures, playing out of poor venues, breaking player eligibility rules – to gain an advantage or save money or simply because they had no other option and the league over the last couple of years hasn’t developed. It’s not the distance or the league structure. It’s manageable for clubs. I spent a season in the Super League with Tranmere Rovers and we didn’t once postpone a game or struggle for players to play a long away trip.

Restructure

Whatever the new set up – and I believe the FA will take it away from the FA Futsal League committee – it needs to be stronger and not allow clubs to ‘play the game’.

The FA to take over the running of the league much like the Women’s Super League. The current set up is old & have let too much slide so clubs have the power.

Mostly referring to fixtures but also bending of player rules & lack of punishments or lack of application of the rules— Damon Shaw – Futsal Coach (@Damon_Shaw) March 8, 2019

I have a feeling that Graeme Dell, who is chairman of the FA Futsal Committee (not sure the exact denomination of it) will push for going back to North & South. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but perhaps a step back. If this happens, it will naturally bring with it playoffs, which I feel should come in either way.

English quota

I’d up the English (not Scottish / Welsh either) quota to 8. 4 foreigners. The quality of English player is high enough and this would improve the quality of foreigners too. Maybe lower leagues can have more.— Damon Shaw – Futsal Coach (@Damon_Shaw) March 8, 2019

If it’s coming in to The FA, and their aim is to get into the top 20, then I can see an increase in the English player quota. Skubala has always called for 8 players, so that 1 is always on court. Perhaps 7 is a good compromise but maybe bring in the rule we have in Malta where only 3 foreign can be on court at once. It works, even though I had my doubts before I experienced it.

Central venue events

Central venue match days. Opening weekend and one more maybe.

No easy changing of fixtures. Too many clubs used it as they had no players. Once fixtures are made, zero changes except in extreme circumstances. Venue not available? You find another. Must have a back up.— Damon Shaw – Futsal Coach (@Damon_Shaw) March 8, 2019

This is a concept I suggested a couple of years ago when I was on the committee and something that I experienced in Japan in 2016. I attended the opening weekend of The F-League where all teams descended on Tokyo for a festival and over the Saturday and the Sunday, the opening game of fixtures was played at a fantastic arena.

Damon Shaw at F-League in Tokyo
Yoyogi Arena, Tokyo

Venues are key

Venues need to be top class for the FA Futsal League. Very few are the required standard. Off the top of my head here are the following that would be good enough for the top in England (that are realistic and have been used up to now):

  • Manchester Velodrome
  • Copperbox, but not just one court with curtain hanging over…
  • University of Wolverhampton (but full court)
  • St. George’s Park (just)
  • Derby Velodrome
  • Sport Central (Newcastle, full court)
  • York Uni

And venues have to be the key. I really hope for the sake of the future of futsal that to play in the top league you must have a minimum standard. Places like Manchester velodrome, copperbox, sport Central… Not some we are seeing.— Damon Shaw – Futsal Coach (@Damon_Shaw) March 8, 2019

You can see the rest of the thread on twitter, but those are basically the main points that I think or maybe hope, will happen.

Here you can read the proposed league regulations I submitted to the league ahead of last year’s AGM that were ignored. I am interested to see how much of it they use.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1wkLkxWXioihIXdlHU-63jpTm4tZnzf2f2B1o1n38WMo/edit

Of course, marketing is key too. But I’ve not mentioned that much as there are bigger issues. Once sorted, they should use mycujoo and a website to stream games and really use social media to spread the league to a wider audience.

Would love to hear your thoughts. Drop me a tweet or comment below!!

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