Among adults, 5-a-side is the most popular version of football, because, compared to larger games, it is easier to organise. Everyone can find four friends (however skilled) to cobble together some sort of team. The rise of leagues and high-quality artificial pitches across the UK mean that 5-a-side’s popularity has snowballed. A 2015 Sport England Survey estimated that 1.5 million people play the game in the UK each week. 11-a-side used to be part and parcel of a football enthusiast’s Saturday morning, but it has suffered a devastating defeat against the smaller, nippier game. Powerleague, the UK’s leading mini-league provider, made a profit of 3.7 million pounds last year, proving that there is big money in the little game. Organising a 5-a-side league has its challenges, with plenty of competition out there; but if done right, you will be reaping financial rewards.
Weekday evenings sorted
Monday to Thursday evenings between six and ten will be your bread and butter. These times have the potential to be booked back to back, week on week. Provide a variety of start times as some people will come straight from work while others choose to eat dinner first. Be wary of the Friday night trap. The UK has a *cough* active drinking culture. Many leagues have flopped because players swapped toe shots for tequila shots. This is not to say that weekend leagues won’t have their draw; a Saturday morning can be a success, but it unlikely to be your prime money earner.
Sponsors are keen
If you look at Powerleague or Goals Soccer Centres, the two leading small-sided league providers, their pitches, website, bibs, and goalposts are plastered in sponsorship advertising. Their astroturf may be electric blue (thanks to Lucozade Sport), but they are all in perfect condition and the latest generation rubber crumb. You don’t have to paint your pitch pink anytime soon; sponsors may be able to supply your goalposts or help with your marketing campaign.
Suitable for all levels
For those who have never so much as grazed their knee on a football pitch, requesting to join an established team can be unnerving. That’s why 5-a-side leagues are the gateway into the addictive game. Although many people enter a league to keep fit and enjoy themselves, there is no doubt that the notion of winning is an enticing element. The tighter the match, the more adrenaline and excitement, so be sure to provide divisions for the tenderfoots, the dab hands, and everyone in between.
Larger Pitches can be divided in half or thirds for multiple games, giving you, the organiser, more buck for your bang. Having various games played at once can also create an intimate, sociable atmosphere that enhances the whole experience and keeps players coming back.
People sign up for the season
Most leagues run throughout the term time or seasonally. This means that your pitches are block booked for months at a time. One of the downfalls of this is that people’s enthusiasm may start to wane as the season draws to a close. It is your job as an organiser to keep energy levels up (maybe your sports drink sponsor can help you there). Referees should be on the ball during play to keep the game tight. Send text reminders the day before sessions, so players have no excuse to back out last minute.
Selling a package deal
When running a league at your premises, you are selling more than just a patch of grass; you are providing the whole game. So long as the experience is top notch and the players come away satisfied, people will be prepared to pay more than they would to rent a pitch. Of course, you must factor in referee costs and your fee for the organisation, but the numbers add up.
5-a-side is profitable; the success of it can be seen by the many triumphant leagues and by the plethora of high quality, artificial pitches that are sprouting up in almost every town in the UK.
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