How to set up a new club
If you are setting up a club, such as a sports club, there are a few questions you should consider:
- Are there enough potential members?
- Are there enough volunteers to run the club?
- Is there another club in the area that is already meeting the need for this type club?
If there is a national governing body (NGB) for the sport or activity you should contact it for advice.
Once you have decided to set up a club there are a number of things you will need to agree.
One of the first things you will have to decide is what legal structure to use for the club. The most common and simplest structure for a club is an unincorporated association. This is the structure we cover in this document.
It involves drawing up a set of rules to regulate the relationship between the members of the club. This is known as the club’s constitution. It also usually provides for a committee to run the club's affairs. Under this structure the club has no separate legal personality, and the club members are personally liable for the actions or debts of the club. If the club wants to employ staff or lease property, it may find that an unincorporated association is too limited a structure for this.
Sport Ireland provides information on the various types of legal structures, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each type, in the NGB Support Kit on its website.
You may wish to register the club as a charity. You can find out more information in our document What is a charity? Also see 'Further information' below for details on setting up a charity.
You must have a club name to draw up formal documents and open a bank account. The name can be anything you decide but you should check that no other local club has the same name.
The club constitution is a written document that states the rules and structures that govern the club. It outlines the functions of the club and the procedures for membership, meetings and committees. A club constitution is usually required for funding and if applying for tax relief.
If there is a national governing body, it may be able to provide you with a model constitution which you could adapt. Sports clubs often have copies of their constitutions on their websites. You can find guidance on constitutions on the Charities Regulator website.
A club needs a number of officials to run the club. The minimum requirement is:
These are elected posts and the holders are members of the club committee. There can be other members on the committee as laid out in the club’s constitution, for example a Fundraising Officer. A club can also have other roles outside of the formal club positions and club members may volunteer to carry out these roles.
Annual general meeting
An annual general meeting (AGM) is held each year so that all members can have an input into the running of the club. The club committee is elected at the AGM.
The club committee is the group of members who are formally responsible for managing the club. Establishing a committee with clearly identified roles can help to identify who does what in the club and can help to spread the workload. The committee should meet several times a year. Information on a code of practice for good governance of community, voluntary and charitable organisations is available at governancecode.ie.
You will have to raise funds to run the club. Initially these funds may come from membership subscriptions. You should also outline the costs of running the club for the year. This will help you create a budget of income and expenditure for the next 12 months.
You will need a bank account in the name of the club. The bank will usually ask for two signatories for withdrawing cash or signing cheques.
The Treasurer must maintain either:
- A bound account book for recording details of the financial affairs of the club or
- A computer programme from which printouts can be made in the format of an account book. Appropriate back-up arrangements should be made to avoid irretrievable loss of data.
All monies and cheques received should be paid into the club bank account and recorded in the account book. Receipts should be issued for any cash received. The accounts may have to be audited each year.
There is a scheme of tax relief on income for certain eligible charities and other approved bodies, including sporting bodies. Information on tax relief for sporting bodies and for charities is available in the charities and sports bodies section of revenue.ie.
As an unincorporated association, the club members are personally liable for the actions or debts of the club. Therefore, the club should obtain adequate insurance to cover its members. It should have suitable public liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance for its activities. You may be able to get insurance advice from the club’s national governing body, if there is one.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force across the EU on 25 May 2018. This regulation increases clubs responsibilities about how they collect, use and store members personal data. Clubs need to understand their responsibilities under data protection law and have adequate procedures in place.
Collecting and processing personal data
When you set up a new club, you will start collecting or using personal data, for example, to manage your club’s membership. You will need to get people’s consent to do this. Consent must be requested whether you are using paper membership forms, membership databases or other systems. When asking for consent to process people’s data, for example, on membership forms or for Gardaí vetting, you must tell them:
- The club’s identity and contact details
- The reasons for collecting the data
- The uses it will be put to
- Who their data will be disclosed to (and if it will be transferred outside the EU)
- The legal basis for processing the data
- How long the data will be kept
- That they can complain if they are unhappy with how the club is complying with data protection regulations
- If their data will be subject to automated decision making
- Their individual rights under GDPR, for example, in relation to accessing, rectifying and erasing data, see below.
You must provide this information in easy to understand, clear language. You must also be able to demonstrate that consent was given (pre-ticked boxes or inactivity cannot be taken as consent).
Processing children’s data
If your club works with children and will be collecting and processing their data, you must ensure you have systems in place to verify their age and collect consent from their guardians. Find out more about processing children’s data on gdprandyou.ie.
People asking for access to data held about them
People have a number of rights under GDPR, which clubs must comply with and be able to respond to. The main rights include being entitled to:
- Access the personal data held about them
- Have their personal data rectified if it is inaccurate or incomplete
- Have their personal data erased
- Restrict the processing of their information, including automated decision-making
- Object to direct marketing
- Information about the collection and processing of their personal data, for example, how and why their data is being collected and processed, and if the data will be shared with a third-party (as above).
Clubs must be able to respond to requests from people who want to access the personal data the club holds about them within 1 month. Read more about rights under GDPR.
Reporting data breaches
Personal data must be kept securely (encrypted if using technology) and should only be retained for as long as it is needed for the original purpose it was collected. If your security is breached and people’s personal data is destroyed, lost, altered or accessed by an unauthorised person or organisation, you must report this to the Data Protection Commission (DPC).
You must report a data breach within 72 hours of becoming aware of it. Data breaches that can harm an individual, for example, identity theft, must also be reported to the person concerned.
Your club can be inspected and could face significant penalties if you are in breach of GDPR.
You can find out about the twelve steps for getting GDPR compliant on gdprandyou.ie.
People working with children or vulnerable adults must be vetted by the Garda Síochána National Vetting Bureau. Find out more about this in our document on Garda vetting.
Working with children and young people
If your club works with children you should develop specific policies and procedures on how to create a safe environment to prevent deliberate harm or abuse to the children using your services. These policies and procedures should cover:
- Dealing with child protection concerns
- Reporting child protection concerns
- Working safely with children
- Recruiting and managing staff
- Child safeguarding awareness and training
- Involving parents and children
- Implementing and reviewing the safeguarding strategies
For more information about safeguarding best practice, see Tusla's Child Safeguarding: A Guide for Policy, Procedure and Practice (pdf).
The Wheel is a support and representative body for community and voluntary organisations and charities. It provides information on forming a charity as well as a factsheet on setting up a charity (pdf) on its website.
The Charities Regulatory Authority (CRA) is the national statutory regulatory agency for charitable organisations. Any organisation that wants to operate as a charity must register with the CRA. There is more information on the CRA's website.
Local Development Companies (LDCs) are known by many different names including Local Area Partnerships and LEADER Partnerships. Among other things they provide supports for community groups.