FEATURE: Liverpool Futsal Club - A Behind the Scenes Look at Futsal in the United Kingdom
Updated: Nov 30, 2019
Washington, DC, USA - March 17, 2019 | Liverpool Futsal Club
“I’ve never met anyone in the Futsal community who didn’t absolutely love the sport,” voices Liverpool Futsal Club COO, Peter Sharples, as him and I chat Futsal at this past year’s United Soccer Coaches Convention in Chicago, Illinois.
That evening, we would go on to discuss big picture ideas for Futsal domestically here in the United States, overseas in the United Kingdom, and globally. Ultimately, we aligned on the primary notion that its essential to unite the global Futsal leadership and community under a shared vision to strategically drive the sport forward and inspire action across federations, clubs & grassroots initiatives. My hope is that Pivot Futsal will support in this charge.
In this Pivot Futsal feature article, we get a sneak peak behind the scenes look at Liverpool Futsal Club with Peter Sharples (COO), Ronnie Johnson (Chairman), and their front office team’s efforts to establish LFC as the leading Futsal club in the country and further, unite the United Kingdom around the sport. Peter and I connected in an interview discussion to learn more about all things Liverpool Futsal Club, key challenges they face, and their forward-looking vision.
Massive thank you to Peter, Ronnie and their team for taking the time to share insights, and the ongoing work to spread the vision of Futsal.
History of Liverpool Futsal Club
A little background on Liverpool Futsal Club and Futsal in the United Kingdom as we dive in. Liverpool Futsal Club was established in 2005 and gained FA affiliation status in 2007. The club initially focused their efforts on the senior men’s side who have risen to now compete in the FA National Futsal League Division 1 North. Currently, the FA National Futsal League (*funded by the FA) is structured in 3 tiers on the men’s side: FA Futsal National Super League, FA Futsal National League Division 1, and FA Futsal National League Division 2.
*NOTE: After an independent review, the FA is on the eve of cutting funding to the current league and introducing a new United Kingdom national Futsal league structure starting in the 2019/20 season as the FA continues to build on their master Futsal strategy plan “Fast Forward with Futsal”. Numerous new structural principles were introduced at this past weekend’s FA Futsal Conference including central venues for each round of the season (clubs to host 2/season), English v. foreign player registration restrictions, courts 38x20 meters with 2 meter run off area, all clubs official licensing, UEFA B licensing for all coaches, and other venue mandates. Learn more about the league updates here [link].
Further, Liverpool Futsal Club has made strides adding inclusionary and community emphasis at all various levels of the organization including:
----- The Liverpool Futsal Club Women’s First team compete in the FA National Women’s League - the sole tier on the women’s side of the sport in the UK.
----- The Liverpool Futsal Club Reserve Development team compete in the FA National League Division 2 North.
----- The Liverpool Futsal Club community, grassroots, and youth academy training programming continue to advance, and embrace all levels.
The community, grassroots, and youth academy programming aims to build a pathway for rising players via academy teams, supporting nearby school clubs, fueling development centers, and hosting regular tournaments. The academy & youth programs have grown to nearly 1,000 total LFC youth players and have an emphasis on building a passionate community of Futsal advocates.
Further, over recent months Liverpool Futsal Club have partnered with the following stakeholders to support in driving the club forward:
----- Joma, their now official kit provider for the 2019/20 season [view kit design here]
----- Facilities such as IM Marsh, serving as a short-term home for the club while building a state of the art facility is being finalized,
----- City Futsal [link] of the United States to share resources including front office operational strategy, coaching education, and international exposure opportunities.
In the midst of the Futsal excitement across Liverpool Futsal Club, the organization is still working hard behind the scenes to solidify their identity and align themselves with strong stakeholders to drive the club and sport forward.
Futsal Climate in the United Kingdom and Europe
There remains a tug-o-war battle for player commitment between football (“soccer’) and Futsal across European countries - and specifically, battling the shadow of the English Premier League in the United Kingdom. No doubt that history is on football’s side but Futsal is experiencing growth in popularity. This can be accredited to a few core areas: a legitimate pathway for players to rise from youth to senior levels, improved access to quality Futsal facilities, and a unique excitement that the 5-a-side Futsal game provides in comparison to the traditional 11-a-side football.
“Due to the popularity of Futsal, it is now a professional paid sport all over the world and now offers a standalone career path for players who wish to remain in Futsal. Research clearly shows players are leaving football to follow the Futsal pathway,” said Peter Sharples.
Weather is also an issue in the United Kingdom in which Futsal provides an alternative to typical outdoor football training. “Here in the United Kingdom, futsal is making huge strides and given the way United Kingdom weather plays havoc at winter time with the outdoor game - futsal is the way forward for player development,” added Peter Sharples.
And while the end goal is to continue separating the Futsal pathway from the football pathway, Peter says the old philosophy still rings true in that “Futsal was and will continue to be instrumental in producing better technical players for generations to come” for both the indoor and outdoor games.
The FA, Liverpool Futsal Club and other key groups continue to strive for the unified and cohesive Futsal structure across the United Kingdom at the league, club, and grassroots levels. With the impending updates to the new FA Futsal league structure - clubs and academies across the region will continue to build upon the vision and pathway.
“The Futsal culture is taking off in the UK - but at the highest level, we have to bring the best coaches from Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Portugal to work alongside the very best coaches at the FA and build the Futsal DNA,” states Peter with an eye on long term development and success.
“This then transcends into the youth system. We build better Futsal and football players. We aren't reinventing the wheel here but we are going back to better technical coaching and development, more touches on the ball, playing with freedom and enjoying it.”
Vision of Liverpool Futsal Club
While the growth of Liverpool Futsal Club over the past 14 years has been significant, LFC President/Chairman, Ronnie Johnson and COO, Peter Sharples, have a concise vision with specific outcomes to drive the club to the next tier within the United Kingdom. The primary action items include:
----- Building a state of the art facility to serve as a northwest UK Futsal hub housed in Liverpool. Some of the core considerations they have prioritized for the facility include ample competition/training space for all LFC teams, stadium-style feature court, medical accommodations, strength and conditioning accommodations, conference rooms, classrooms, infrastructure for major tournaments, live broadcasting needs, and more.
----- Advancing the competition level of the senior team to obtain FA National Super League promotion within the next two years. The club is currently facing some adversity with a stretch of tough results in FA National League Division One North but the future is optimistic as the infrastructure, player identification, and pathway develops.
----- Qualifying and competing in the UEFA Futsal Champions League within the next five years. UEFA Futsal Champions League qualification entails the top team who won the top domestic Futsal league across each European association. The top 3 ranked associations can have two teams that qualify.
----- Establishing a comprehensive working relationship with Liverpool Football Club. This will enhance the opportunity to maximize resources across both organizations. Further, the relationship will provide both clubs with the ability to develop the highest quality technical players and maximize the community experience for all.
It’s clear that the vision for Liverpool Futsal Club is to be the gold-standard Futsal club in the United Kingdom and set the culture across the community to embrace the sport. Many variables in play that need to be developed to achieve this vision but ultimately, the thinking here is bold and necessary to set that standard.
“We firmly believe the future is futsal. The community is very important to us and the Liverpool name is synonymous with the local community,” said Peter Sharples on his love for Futsal and serving the Liverpool & United Kingdom community.
“The vision is simple; strive to be the best Futsal team in Europe which offers total social inclusion. Futsal is for everyone.”
PETER SHARPLES, Liverpool Futsal Club, Chief Operating Officer
Peter Sharples has served the Futsal and football community in many capacities throughout his career including as a consultant, player, fan, coach and above all, an advocate. Most recently, Sharples supports leading Liverpool Futsal Club and the strategic efforts to build and sustain the club. Additionally, Sharples also spent 12 years in the Royal Navy with opportunities to travel the world and compete in local Futsal and football culture.
RONNIE JOHNSON, Liverpool Futsal Club, Founder & Chairman
Ronnie Johnson has been a major voice across the Futsal community over the years. Johnson founded Liverpool Futsal Club in 2005 and has nurtured the club as it rose into a competitive FA National Futsal League side. Previously Ronnie also has experience working with Tranmere Rovers FC at their new Futsal Hub venue at Prenton Park - he supported with Futsal strategy, organization and leagues administration giving thousands access to Futsal on Merseyside.
MARK WYSOCKI, Pivot Futsal, Founder & Chief Editor
Mark Wysocki is an accomplished sports business & Futsal professional with 10+ years in the sports industry supporting some of the world’s leading corporate brands and rising small businesses. Wysocki has been very connected to the Futsal community over the years across the United States & internationally as a consultant, editor, professional Futsal player, program director, strategist, coach, and advocate of the sport.