2. MEMBERSHIP REQUIREMENTS
2.1 Each Club shall register its Ground, and its pitch dimensions, with the Competition.
Dimensions of the field of play for all Competition matches shall be:-
Length - Maximum 120 yards (110 metres) - Minimum 110 yards (100 metres)
Width - Maximum 80 yards (75 metres) - Minimum 70 yards (64 metres)
No Club shall remove to another Ground without first obtaining written consent of the Board; such consent not to be withheld unreasonably. In consideration whether to give such consent the Board shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case and shall not grant consent unless it is reasonably satisfied that such consent: -
• would be consistent with the objectives of the Competition as set out in the Memorandum of Association;
• would be appropriate having in mind the relationship (if any) between the locality with which by its name or otherwise the applicant Club is traditionally associated and that in which such Club proposes to establish its Ground;
• would not adversely affect such Club’s Officials, Players, supporters, shareholders, sponsors and others having an interest in its activities;
• would not have an adverse affect on visiting Clubs;
• would not adversely affect Clubs having their registered Grounds in the immediate vicinity of the proposed location, and
• would enhance the reputation of the Competition and promote the game of association football generally.
The Club must disclose, as soon as practicable, plans and details of any proposed move to a new stadium. The location of the proposed new stadium must meet with the approval of the Board.
Without prejudice to the provisions of Rule 4.12 a Club shall forthwith notify the Competition of any proposed change in its circumstances relating to the occupation of its Ground. By way of example, and without limitation, a proposed change may include a sale of any freehold interest (with or without subsequent leaseback) or any surrender or variation or a lease or licence.
2.2 All Clubs shall have Grounds and headquarters situated in England, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man if applicable, or Wales and the Competition Secretary shall send their names and particulars to The FA annually by the date appointed by, and in the format required by, The FA. Clubs playing in England shall be duly affiliated at all times to a recognised County Football Association. Welsh Clubs shall be affiliated to The FA of Wales. Each Club shall notify the Competition Secretary of its affiliation number each year as soon as practicable after it has received same. Each Club shall return to the General Manager a fully completed questionnaire relating to Form “D” required by The FA by the date given in the circular letter accompanying the questionnaire issued by the Competition Secretary.
2.3.1 A Club’s Ground may be shared with another Club or any other club (including a club engaged in another sport) providing, where sharing with a football club the Club or club playing in the most senior competition has priority of fixtures at all times and, where sharing with a club engaged in another sport, the Club has priority of fixtures. A Club will not be permitted to ground share to gain promotion or to avoid relegation. Ground sharing may not be permitted when one of the sharers retains the use of another ground unless that club can show by means of a refused planning permission or similar that it cannot meet the requirements of the Criteria Document at that ground. Any Club wishing to share a Ground or intending to move to a new Ground must obtain the written consent of the Board. Any Ground sharing for a period exceeding thirteen (13) weeks must be in writing and a written agreement must first be approved by the Board before being entered into and (except in an emergency) must be completed by 31 March in any year to be effective for the following Playing Season. A copy of the completed signed and dated agreement must be received by the Competition within fourteen days of the approval being sent to the Club.
2.3.2 The Club as at 31 March in any year shall either:
(i) Own the freehold of the Ground, or
In each case the Club must provide to the Competition of which it is a member and to The Football Association:
(ii) Have a lease for the Ground that extends uninterrupted for a minimum of the next Playing Season, or
(iii) Possess an agreement for the use of the Ground that is acceptable to The Football Association.
If the Ground is freehold either currently dated Official Copies of the freehold title at the Land Registry in the name of the entity in membership of the Competition or, if unregistered, a Certificate of Title from the Club’s solicitor showing that the Ground is owned by the entity in membership of the Competition, or
If the Ground is held leasehold a copy of the signed and dated lease in the name of the entity in membership of the Competition; if the expiry date of the lease has already passed or is dated before the end of the next full Playing Season, a certificate from the Club’s solicitor as to whether or not a notice has been given by the landlord to terminate the lease. In addition the Club must provide evidence of registration at the Land Registry, or explain why the Lease is not registered.
If the Ground is subject to an acceptable agreement a copy of the signed and dated agreement for the use of the Ground together with confirmation from The Football Association that the agreement is acceptable.
The Club must disclose whether the Club’s occupation of the Ground is subject to any third party option, whether the ground is charged by way of security and whether or not any break clauses in the lease or agreement have been exercised either by the landlord or the tenant.
In all cases The Football Association and the Competition of which it is a member have the right to call for further information.
2.3.3 A Club’s Ground must comply with the Criteria Document for the step in the National League System at which the Club is playing.
2.4 No club which is a “nursery” club or a reserve side of a football club shall be eligible for membership of the Company.
A club shall be deemed to be a “nursery” club if it is under obligation, written or otherwise, to a football club by reason of which it has not the sole and entire control of its own management, finance and Players.
2.5 Clubs seeking membership or applying to retain membership of the Company must comply with the requirements provided for in the Criteria Document for the step at which the Club is playing. Only clubs which meet these criteria in full will be eligible for membership. All Clubs visited by representatives of the Competition in pursuance of the document will pay a non-returnable fee. In the absence of a procedure for application for membership being established by The FA, the Board shall establish such procedure.
The Board shall establish a procedure for inspecting Club's grounds from time to time to ensure that the grade attained by that ground is maintained.
2.6 The Competition and the FA shall determine a time scale whereby all Clubs in membership must attain the grade provided for in the Criteria Document. The grade applicable for each Club for the commencement of a Playing Season shall be that existing at the previous 1st April, such grading to be ascertained by an inspection carried out on or before 1st April or as soon as practicable thereafter. Any Club not maintaining the grade set for the Competition may be relegated at the end of the Playing Season to a step determined by The FA.
Any delay in inspection shall in no way release a Club from its obligation to have its ground ready for inspection. If for any reason a Club's existing ground, or any new ground in which it proposes to play its home matches in the season following inspection, is not available for grading by 1st April prior to commencement of the relevant season then the Club must, by the 1st April, submit to the Board in writing its proposals for a venue for its home matches in the following season ("alternative proposal"), such alternative proposal to be considered (and if appropriate) approved at the next Board Meeting after 1st April. The alternative proposal must, inter alia, contain documentary evidence in support of any ground sharing arrangements and evidence that the proposed ground is demonstrably suitable at a level which the relevant club will be competing. The alternative proposal may not be for a continuation of any ground share arrangement if the Club has had a ground sharing arrangement for the previous 2 seasons, or any part thereof, even if those arrangements have related to more than one ground.
Any approval of the alternative proposal will be subject to the issue of a grading certificate. The Board will use all reasonable endeavours to inspect the ground after receiving the alternative proposal and prior to the Board meeting, but if it is unable to do so then any approval of the alternative proposal will be subject to the issue of a satisfactory grading certificate. In the event of a Club not having received a grading certificate by 1st April and not having had its alternative proposal approved at the relevant Board Meeting, it shall be relegated forthwith at the end of the playing season to a level determined by The Football Association.
2.7 Any Club which is incorporated must be incorporated in England and Wales. Any Club wishing to incorporate shall notify The FA, its Affiliated Association and the Company Secretary before it makes any resolutions in this regard. Any person wishing to be appointed as an Officer to a Club which is incorporated must comply with the requirements of the FA Owners' and Directors' Test Regulations and send to the League Secretary a copy of the Owners' and Directors' Declaration form within 5 days of sending the same to the FA.
2.8 In the event that any Club which is an unincorporated association incorporates itself it shall notify the Company Secretary in writing within 14 days of the passing of the resolution to take this action and shall with such notice provide the Company Secretary with a copy of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the company. Any amendments to the Memorandum and Articles of Association of a Club must be notified to the Competition Secretary in writing within 14 days of the passing of the resolution with a copy of the change(s).
Transfer of Membership – Transfer as a Going Concern
2.9.1 In the event that any Club resolves to transfer its membership of the Competition from one legal entity to a different legal entity, other than in the circumstances shown at 2.9.2 below, the Board will use the following minimum criteria in deciding whether to approve that transfer:
(a) The shareholders or members of the Club have voted to agree to the transfer of the Club’s membership to the new entity.
(b) All Football Creditors in the Club must be paid in full or transferred in full (with each creditor’s consent) to the new entity, and evidenced as such.
(c) All other creditors in the Club must be paid in full or Secured or transferred in full (with each creditor’s consent) to the new entity and evidenced as such.
(d) The proposed new entity has provided financial forecasts to the FA and the Competition showing its ability to fund the Club for the next twelve (12) months or to the end of the Playing Season following transfer (whichever is the longer) and that evidence of funding sources has been provided.
(e) The FA must have given approval for the transfer to take place.
Transfer of Membership – Transfer from Insolvency
2.9.2 In the event that any Club that is subject to an Insolvency Event resolves to transfer its membership of the Competition to a new entity, the Board will use the following minimum criteria in deciding whether or not to approve that transfer:
(a) The shareholders or members of the Club have voted to agree to the transfer of the Club’s membership to the new entity and/or a licensed insolvency practitioner(s) appointed to the Club has agreed to sell or transfer some or all of the Club’s assets to the new entity;
(b) All Football Creditors in the Club must be Paid in Full and evidenced as such;
(c) The proposed new entity has provided financial forecasts to the FA and the Competition showing its ability to fund the Club for the next twelve (12) months or to the end of the Playing Season following transfer (whichever is the longer) and that evidence of funding sources has been provided;
(d) The FA must have given approval for the transfer to take place; and
(e) All other creditors in the Club must be satisfied and evidenced as such. (This provision to be read in conjunction with 2.7.3 below.)
In the event that requirement (a) and/or (e) is not fully complied with, and only where the Board, at its absolute discretion, deems there to have been exceptional circumstances surrounding the application for the transfer, it may approve the transfer (subject to compliance with all other provisions above) and may apply such conditions as it deems appropriate including, without limitation, the deduction of points.
2.9.3. Nothing in Rule 2.9.2 above shall limit in any way the application of Rule 14B of these Rules.
2.10 The Competition shall allow for up to 44 member Clubs. There will be two divisions of 22 Clubs in each division where possible. The divisions will be called Premier and Division 1. The Clubs competing in each division each season will be confirmed by the Annual General Meeting of the Company each year. A Club entered into membership at the Annual General Meeting shall be subject to the application of the Rules until the date of the following Annual General Meeting. It shall be allowed for these numbers to be increased to accommodate any anomaly in the National League System.
2.11 Any Club or Club representative found guilty of serious irregularities regarding Players Contract payments under The FA Rules may be expelled from the Company in accordance with these Rules and, in addition, may be fined such sum as the Board shall determine.
2.12 The Company will hold a membership register of the full name of the company/unincorporated entity constituting each Club. If the Club is an incorporated entity, it must provide the Company with its company name and registration number. If the Club is an unincorporated entity, it must provide the Company with the name of an individual in whose name the membership of the Company will be vested. A Club must notify the Company of all proposed changes to the information held by the League in the membership register in respect of the Club including any proposed change of company name or the name of an individual in whose name the membership of the Company is vested.
The Company will provide a copy of its membership register to The FA annually.
2.13 Publication of ownership
Each Club shall publish its legal name, form (e.g. unincorporated association, company limited by shares or guarantee etc) and any identifier (e.g. company number). In addition for those Clubs that are owned, then the Club shall also publish the identities of the ultimate owner (i.e. the name of an individual) of each Significant Interest in the Club. Such information shall as a minimum be published on the Club’s official website on a page accessible directly from the home page of that official club website and/or within the Club’s official matchday programme.
2.14 In the event that an Insolvency Event occurs in relation to any Club, that Club must inform and keep informed the Company Secretary and The FA immediately.
The Board shall have the power to suspend a Club on notification of it having entered an Insolvency Event.
At the discretion of the Board, a suspension may take effect from the giving of the notice or it may be postponed subject to any conditions as the Board may think fit to impose.
In the event that a Club is suspended or its suspension is postponed, the Board shall have power to make such payments as it may think fit to the Club’s Football Creditors out of any monies due to that club from the Company.
2.15 An Officer must submit an Owners’ and Directors’ Declaration to The FA in accordance with the Reporting Requirements set out in the FA's Owners’ and Directors’ Regulations that apply from time to time. The Club must provide a copy of any such Owners’ and Directors’ Declaration to the Competition at the time it is submitted to the FA.
No individual will be permitted to act as an Officer if they fail to meet any of the requirements of the Owners’ and Directors’ Declaration, as set out in the Rules of The FA.
In the event that an individual/entity is found to have either:
• Completed false or misleading statements on their Owners' and Directors' Declaration;
• Acted as an Officer when in breach of the requirements of the Owners' and Directors' Declaration;
• Acted as an Officer without the FA having given written confirmation to the Club in accordance with the FA’s Owners’ and Directors’ Regulations that the individual may so act;
then the individual/entity or Club shall be subject to such fine or other sanction as may be determined by The FA.
In the event that the Competition receive a Notice from the FA issued in accordance with the FA’s Owners’ and Directors’ Test Regulations for the suspension of that Club’s Competition membership, then that Club shall be suspended from the Competition with effect from 14 days from the date of the Notice. An appeal of the effect of the Notice is to the FA and can only be made by the affected Club and in accordance with the appeal procedures set out in the FA Owners’ and Directors’ Test Regulations. The effect of the Notice shall be suspended pending the outcome of an appeal.
The FA shall advise the Competition and the Club in writing where it becomes satisfied that a Disqualifying Condition as defined in the FA Owners’ and Directors’ Test no longer applies. Upon receipt of this written notification from The FA, the Competition may remove the suspension of the Club’s Competition membership.
Where a Club is suspended and that causes a match in the Competition not to be played, the Board shall determine how the outcome of that match shall be treated.
2.16 Within fourteen days a change in a Significant Interest at a Club or of the appointment or removal of any director of a Club, written notice thereof, together with such details as are required to be filed with the Registrar of Companies, shall be deposited at the Competition Office.
2.17 If during the course of a season the Board decide that the organisation and management of a particular Club fall below the standards appropriate to membership of the Competition, the Competition Secretary shall be instructed to warn the Club at once that it may be excluded from membership of the Competition at the end of that playing season. Such a Club shall have the right to appeal to The FA within 14 days of the date of notification of the Board’s decision.
2.18 The Competition, through the Board shall be empowered from time to time by subscription, levy or otherwise to require Clubs to contribute such sum or sums of money to the funds of the League as may be necessary for the proper conduct of the business of the League. Such contributions by Clubs may be collected by deduction from sums due to Clubs under any promotion agreement or from sponsorship money due or by whatever means the Board shall think fit. There shall be added to any sums to be contributed from Clubs, if applicable, Value Added Tax at the then prevailing rate.
2.19 Any Club failing to be represented at an Annual General Meeting or any other General Meeting called in accordance with the Rules without satisfactory reason being given shall be fined in accordance with the Fines Tariff.
2.20 The Competition and each Club must be committed to promoting inclusivity and to eliminating all forms of discrimination.
2.21 The Competition and each Club does not and must not [by its rules or regulations or] in any manner whatsoever unlawfully discriminate against any person within the meaning and scope of the Equality Act 2010 or any law, enactment, order or regulation relating to discrimination (whether by way of age, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, marital status, race, nationality, ethnic origin, colour, religion or belief, ability or disability, or otherwise).
2.22 The Competition and each Club shall make every effort to promote equality by treating people fairly and with respect, by recognising that inequalities may exist, by taking steps to address them and by providing access and opportunities for all members of the community, irrespective of age, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, marital status, race, nationality, ethnic origin, colour, religion or belief, ability or disability, or otherwise.
2.23 Any alleged breach of the Equality Act 2010 legislation must be referred to the appropriate sanctioning Association for investigation.