The FA Charter Standard Programme is the FA accreditation scheme open to all grassroots clubs and leagues. It aims to raise standards in the grassroots game, supporting the development of clubs, recognising and rewarding commitment, quality and achievement. The FA Charter Standard accreditation is for clubs who can be proud to be places where people want to play. These are the clubs who demonstrate they offer well-run and sustainable football.
Hartley Wintney Junior FC is proud to have been awarded the FA’s ‘Community Charter Standard’, which acknowledges the most advanced level of club development and football provision. Only a few clubs are awarded this level and they must demonstrate sustainability and prioritise qualified coaching and safeguarding as well as the values of the FA Respect campaign as part of their game.
Suzanne McDermott-Swan, the junior club’s welfare and charter standard officer since 2018, has championed this process and explains what this accreditation means.
The club wanted to aim high, to grow at a sustainable level and ultimately, to be recognised as one of the best junior football clubs in North Hampshire. Working with an amazing group of people at the junior and the senior clubs we have now been recognised for our hard work.
There are three charter standard levels; basic, development and community, and already at basic level, we decided to skip the middle level and aim high. So, many hours later, several drafts of our 3-year plan, and we have made it, with Hampshire FA having awarded us with our certificate, and a grant for £210 towards new equipment.
Every volunteer who has ever been involved since the junior club started, in 1996, has helped lay the solid foundations on which we all continue to build. When our teams played their first matches, I am sure those dedicated volunteers involved would not have expected the club to grow to 26 teams. Like many clubs up and down the country, we started with teams playing friendly matches on pitches that were marked out by cones.
To achieve this award, we have done many things over the past two years, setting an ethos which supports all the great new initiatives our members bring to the table. We are a community club run by volunteers. We strive to be an all-inclusive, mixed ability, friendly junior football club for boys and girls. We aim to promote grass roots football from U6 to U18 creating an environment that is happy, fun and safe for all involved.
For as long as we have space, pitches and willing and qualified volunteers to run our teams we will do all we can to accommodate as many children as possible. We aim to grow the club at a sustainable level and be recognised as one of the best in North Hampshire. With the village expanding and green space for pitches become a challenge we strive to do as best we can. We have recruited more people and are always keen to hear from anyone who wants to lend a volunteer hand or two. We have a vision shared by a committee willing to try new things and make this great village club even better.
Much of this work has gone on in the background. One of the key things you will have seen over the past two seasons is how we look out on the pitches. We have transitioned to one style of kit that mirrors the senior team – and with a new badge ensuring one identity across all teams. Thank you to all our sponsors who have also helped us buy new kit for our teams across the age groups.
We have also recruited more women into football, adding three female FA level 1 coaches to our 40+ Managers and Assistant Managers who keep our teams playing. We now have two girls’ football teams and a third ready to start at U7 in September 21, as well as girls playing in mixed teams in a number of age groups. We also have a mentor mentee program and we have sponsored two young adults who wanted to get into coaching to complete their badges - they have now dedicated their spare time to helping out with a couple of our teams to gain experience before going on to the next level.
Several of our managers have wanted to continue with their training beyond the basic level and have given up over 145 hours of their time to achieve their FA Level 2 coaching badge, which is awesome and a huge commitment on top of running their teams, week to week. We have great links with the senior club; the First Team Manager, coaches and players take an active part in training our children’s teams and help to run our very popular annual summer camp. Many of our players aspire to wear the orange shirt of HWFC and play at the Memorial ground in years to come.
None of this is possible without the fabulous volunteers, the children, their parents and guardians, grandparents, aunties and uncles who come along and support in any way they can. Last season, we had around 10 children in our U6s - this coming season we have 30 - and a waiting list - which goes to show what a great club we have.
Parents, when you are looking for a football club for your child to join, take a moment to look at what standard the club is at, its ethos and culture, and be 100% certain that your child’s welfare and the enjoyment of football are the club's top priorities.
Thank you, Suzanne and team, for the hard work in getting the club accredited to Community Club status, and thank you to everyone involved for your support!