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 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. English Clubs 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.
Insert 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.
Insert 2.3.2 A Club must either (a) own the freehold of the Ground or (b) as at 31 March in each year, have a lease of the Ground which does not expire until at least the end of the next Playing Season or (c) possess a written agreement for the use of the Ground which is acceptable to The FA and the Competition
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 Clubs’ 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.
Clubs in membership of the Competition on 1st April in any season will have until 31st May in that season to meet in full the criteria of membership of the Competition.]
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 and send to the [League] [Company] Secretary a copy of the Owners’ and Directors’ Declaration 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 which 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 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;
(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 2.9.3 below.)
In the event that requirement (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 (a) to (d) 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 22 member Clubs. There will be 1 division of 22 Clubs in each division where possible. The divisions will be called The Premier Division. 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 [the Articles or] these Rules and, in addition, may be fined such sum as the Board shall determine.
2.12 The Company will hold a 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 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.
The Company will provide a copy of its membership register to The FA annually.
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 League 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.
2.16 An Officer must submit 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’ Test 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.
Changes in Significant Interests or of Directors at Clubs
2.16 Changes of Directors at Clubs. Within fourteen days 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 or finances 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.
2.17 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 [commercial contract] 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. [Whenever required to do so all Club Managers, or an Assistant Manager, will be required to attend in person any General Meeting of Clubs to receive a presentation by the Board. Failure to do so without just cause shall be a breach of these Rules and be dealt with in accordance with the Fines Tariff.]