Community Asset Transfer – developing the options
So your club is keen to go ahead with a Community Asset Transfer (CAT)? If you have already looked at the benefits, the risks and the different type of legal agreements and are ready for the next steps, you have come to the right place.
It is now time to develop your options!
Community Asset Transfer is a big decision for any club to make. It is really important at this stage that you understand all your options.
In order for clubs to thrive and prosper, you need to find a solution that is the most viable and sustainable.
You need to:
- consider all your options
- assess feasibility
- determine which will be most beneficial to your club
To assess your options properly, you will need a detailed understanding of the assets (this is the land or facility that might be transferred) and which organisations have an interest.
Form a project team
A project team with the right skills and know-how is absolutely key when going through a CAT process. No one individual can shoulder the process alone.
This team will be responsible for driving the process forward and will represent the club during negotiations.
Usually, the project team is a sub-committee and they should be given a clear brief which outlines its role and responsibilities.
You need team members that bring a range of skills and they will also need the time and capacity to undertake the work.
The project can often involve:
- Negotiations with the landlord
- Preparing a feasibility study
- Writing a business plan
- Liaising with the community, members, and other sports facilities
- Press and PR activity
- Appointing and liaising with architects, surveyors, consultants, and other professionals
- Legal issues
- Arranging external finance advice
- Marketing and customer service
- Operations and maintenance
Of course, the work involved will vary depending on your circumstances but getting the right team in place will make everything easier. And remember - you can always bring people with specific skillsets into the team as and when you need them.
When it comes to recruiting your team, it’s always worth looking at your existing club members and parents as well as the local authority and local partners. More often than not, the expertise and advice of professional services will also be needed and your budget needs to allow for these costs.
Vision and objectives
Taking on the ownership and/or the running of an asset may impact on your organisation and its future purpose. That’s why it is important to be clear about your club’s vision and objectives which can then be used as a reference when assessing your CAT options. Find out more about Vision and Values here.
Working with others
Taking on an asset may also impact other organisations such as community groups, private companies and other sports clubs. To maximise the potential of an asset, consider working in partnership with other parties and identify areas of common interest. This will help the project team assess all partnership options and potential operating models available.
Who can take over the assets?
It is possible for a single sports club to take over the asset as long as it meets the eligibility criteria outlined by Local Authorities. However, taking over an asset on your own as a single sports club is not always viable. However, your club could:
- Be part of a brand new organisation which represents more than one existing organisation – for example, a Sports Association could be formed which consists of a few different sports clubs who all operate out of the same site. The new Association would look after the management of the asset.
- Enter into an agreement with an organisation such as a town or community council that is willing to take over the asset. While your club may not be responsible for the overall asset, you could agree to assist with the running and maintaining of the facility.
If you are interested in partnership working, consider approaching:
- Sports Clubs and Associations
- Community and Town Councils
- Community Groups
- Private Companies
For more information on partnership working, click here.
Getting to know your asset
It is really important that you know exactly what you are taking on! Make sure that the council clearly explains the assets that are subject to the transfer. This would normally be presented in a plan with the boundaries clearly marked.
Do seek further guidance about the inclusion of any communal areas such as car parks and entrances and be clear as to whom the boundaries belong (hedges, fences etc).
Sometimes, facilities are shared. For example, playing fields can be shared between winter and summer sports or they might be public open spaces. Always seek legal advice about the risks these shared facilities and any transfer conditions may have on your organisation.
If there is a mixture of assets, these might be transferred under different types of agreement depending on the specific conditions across the site. Again, do seek legal advice to make sure that the full activities of the club are protected. For example, you do not want to be in the situation where you have ownership of a pavilion but no access rights to the playing pitches.
Other things you need to know
If you are taking on the responsibility for an asset in a legally binding agreement, you must ensure you have detailed knowledge of:
- the terms and conditions of transfer
- the condition of the assets
- the current operating finances of the assets
This will help you build a clear picture of the asset’s current financial sustainability and it will also help inform the asset’s capital investment requirements going forward.
Terms and conditions
The transferring body should be able to explain any terms and conditions of a transfer that are specific to the site. This may include legal covenants that exist on the site and details of any restrictions on specific activities. A full legal review is advised to identify all covenants that may exist on the site.
When you buy a house, a survey is advised to check the state of any damp, the condition of the roof etc. A condition survey does the same for an asset. It will provide an overview of the current conditions and will identify any remediation work that is required. Some Local Authorities undertake condition surveys so may be able to provide this. However, the club may feel it is wise to obtain an independent survey which can be referenced when negotiating with the council on the terms of the transfer.
If playing pitches are included, then the club should obtain a condition survey or pitch report to highlight any structural concerns in the playing area. Improvement works can be expensive if there is a significant issue. To obtain a pitch report please contact your National Governing Body or the Institute of Groundsmanship who will be able to provide further guidance.
It is important that a club has a good understanding of the current operating accounts of a facility so it can make an informed decision on options moving forward. Reviewing the current costs of running the facility will provide a good insight into the level of income required to make the facility sustainable. Assessing the current income that the facility generates from all activities can also highlight any opportunities for growth.
Asset vs Liability
Taking all the steps we have outlined above will help you understand:
- any remedial works required
- the financial situation and what is required to make the asset sustainable
It will give the club a clear picture as to whether it is an asset or a liability. For more information on financial planning click here.
This information is important when negotiating with the council on the terms of the transfer. It can be used to secure investment to address a lack of maintenance or allow the club to only take the assets which are financially sustainable.
Defining the options
You should be in a good position to work out your options once you have followed the steps above.
This means, you have:
- Defined your organisation’s objectives
- Secured a detailed knowledge of the asset
- Identified who could take on the asset
Now it is time to sit down and study the pros and cons of each option and investigate any further unknowns or concerns. This will allow the club to determine the best way forward and develop a business plan.
Of course, a viable option might be to not take on the asset, as this may still be in the club’s best interests.
A decision on the best approach will need to be made by the club and should be supported by the membership. Their involvement and commitment will be essential for the long-term success of the club.
Find out what happened when Llanrumney Boxing Club took over the ownership/running/management of its club gym.
Club Solutions was created to help sports clubs and volunteers in Wales. Please visit our website for further information about facilities. The Welsh Government also have further guidance available. Alternatively, you can contact your Local Authority or National Governing Body.