Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughThe FA's plan to modernise English youth football - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough The FA's plan to modernise English youth football - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

The FA’s plan to modernise English youth football

When a vote is held on an issue and the overwhelming majority vote in favour of change, it begs the question of why the bloody hell it took so long for the vote to be held in the first place, particularly when the issue itself is caused by a blindingly obvious problem. Yesterday’s amendment to the way youth football is run in England is a case in point.

The vote on mandatory changes to the way children play football from under 7s to under 13s resulted in a 697-99 vote in favour of the proposal, an 87% landslide.

The vote centred around the types of pitches children play their organised team football on with the proposal being for them to play in smaller teams on smaller pitches with smaller goals in order to encourage greater technical development of passing and dribbling skills in young footballers. The aim of the new system will be to move away from the present problem of children who develop physically earlier being able to dominate games and leaving smaller children, who could be equally as talented, behind resulting in them potentially leaving football altogether.

The new system, which will be phased in from the 2014-2015 season, will see 5v5 games for under sevens and under eights, moving up to seven-a-side for under nine and under tens and then nine-a-side for under elevens and twelves, all with “appropriate” size goals for the pitch sizes. Full size pitches and goals will only be used from under 13 level. As anyone who played on a full size pitch when younger will attest, those kids who could run fastest or kick hardest were the most valued players and thus were given more training, more attention and could enjoy their football more. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Serious credit must go to Nick Levett, the FA’s national development manager for youth football, who, along with his staff, made 138 ‘roadshow’ presentations to county football associations across the country over the last 30 months, convincing the amateur country associations (the key to FA rule changes in this area) to set the wheels of modernisation in motion. Whilst the patronage of influential figures such as Trevor Brooking (the FA’s director of football development) and Gareth Southgate (Head of Elite Development, who’s speech swayed voter hugely according to the BBC), it was Levett and his team who did what the Australians call ‘the hard yakka’.

Levett himself said; “We were not seeking to emulate one particular country but to look at the best things across Europe and try to develop a new model which is best for English football,” Levett said. “The smaller versions of the game will enable more touches, dribbles, one-on-ones, more involvement and more enjoyment. Where children are enjoying the game more, they are getting better, so that runs hand in hand with development.”

Whilst the implementations will naturally take a very long time to bear fruit, if they are indeed successful although similar models across the continent suggest they’re value, it could well lead to sustained graduation from youth level to senior level, which is more important than success, to benefit the England team.

No-one inside the FA will say it, but the model they would like to emulate is Spain who, if you check out the various under 19 squads over the years show a remarkable number of players making it up to the first team. Here are the class of 2009 strutting their stuff against England in what the FA hope will be a case of roles reversed ten years from now.



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