THE BIGGEST GRASSROOTS CLUB IN THE COUNTRY

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MSB Woolton Football Club in Liverpool has more than 3,000 players across more than 150 teams, with 270 coaches providing grassroots football for the community on an incredible scale.

Based at the Simpsons Football Ground in Liverpool, MSB Woolton also has the biggest girls’ football section as well as teams for players as young as four. “If any kid turns up at the door there’s a team for them,” said coach and committee member Luke McAvoy.

Not only does Woolton provide football pathways for children in their community, the club also boasts three men’s teams, one women’s team and a veterans team. Currently, Woolton’s men’s first team competes in the Liverpool County Premier Division, whilst the women compete in the Liverpool County FA Open Age League.

The club was awarded Charter Standard Community Club status by the FA during 2010 and was named Liverpool County FA’s Charter Standard Community Club of the Year for 2014. Community Club status is the pinnacle of the club development pathway and is awarded to clubs that have a high quality, multi-team set up with excellent social, training and playing opportunities for all. As such, Community Club status is one of the truest measures of success for the FA Football Development strategy and is considered by the FA to be the ultimate goal for clubs at grassroots level.

The club has also been part of the FA’s Club Leadership Programme since season 2018/19, which involves a small group of grassroots clubs collaborating to improve the sustainability of grassroots football across the country. It is testament to the dedication of personnel within the club that all 270 coaches perform their role on a voluntary basis.

MSB Woolton has a rich history going back to the 1930s when they operated under the banner of the Woolton Boys’ Club. The Boys’ Club committee was made up of the headmaster of the local school, town councillors and the Reverend Rector of Woolton. Shortly after the Second World War, a pre-Liverpool Bob Paisley would give a talk at the clubhouse.

Until the turn of the century, the club was operating from Woolton Youth Club in Woolton village and was registered at the FA as Woolton Youth Centre FC. The teams were loosely affiliated, and the business of the club was run by a committee of all the team managers, with no formal constitution. Adjacent to the youth club, a casual drop-in football session began to take place, which led to a number of teams at various ages being formed, and the club rose in size considerably.

In order to control the club’s expansion, it was decided that a formal organisation would be created and, as a result, a general meeting was called at which a committee was elected and a constitution created.

The club subsequently adopted codes of practice for players, coaches, parents and spectators and set about ensuring that all its managers and coaches became qualified to a minimum FA Level 1 standard. This was a slow process given the number of teams, but in 2005 the club was ready, and following application to the FA it was awarded FA Charter Standard Development Club status.

But being such a huge club poses as many challenges as it does opportunities. How can you possibly communicate a playing philosophy, making sure around 270 coaches are on the same page? How do you ensure everyone has the resources they need to guarantee that players are getting the most out of each training session?

Recently, MSB Woolton established a structured coach education programme, including the introduction of digital coaching platform The Coaching Manual.

Luke said: “Our partnership with The Coaching Manual is undoubtedly the natural next step towards creating a first-class environment for best practice football coaching, both at youth and adult level.

“Since we set up with The Coaching Manual, personally, I think it’s a really good site. The content gives you inspiration but I’ve especially found the season planner useful. We’re all volunteers, and the season planner really helps us keep on top of things.

“The content that you get access to [on The Coaching Manual] is a lot different from jumping on YouTube and trying to find a video. It’s a lot more structured, best practice in a sense, so what we’ve got to do is promote best practice and that’s probably where it will help us the most.”

The Coaching Manual Founder Chris Barton said: “MSB Woolton FC are a huge football institution, filled with passionate people who want what’s best for grassroots football in this country and, just as importantly, their volunteer coaches and players.

“We are very proud that they are now on board with The Coaching Manual. We look forward to supporting their coaches going forward and continuing our support of grassroots football in England.”

MSB Woolton’s Academy Manager Colin Windrow said: “Our focus is now heavily on community, with initiatives with local businesses throughout the region getting involved with the club moving us on to the next step of hopefully our adults playing in the North West Counties and one day competing with Everton or Liverpool in the FA Cup. We have the youth side right; our focus is now on producing the adult side right.”

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