FA Young Player Development Review – 25 recommendations

These are the 25 recommendations that the FA believe will help improve the English game at all levels:

1. Agreed mandatory pathway for grassroots youth football playing formats

2. Promotion of The Future Game as a best practice guide to player development

3. Public communications campaign to target teachers, parents and volunteers about the importance of player development

4. The FA to continue work with the other football authorities on whole game youth development issues, and to consider how youth development could be given greater prominence in the game’s governance

5. Expansion of The FA Tesco Skills Programme nationwide

6. Work with policy makers to ensure the protection of football provision in primary education sector

7. Work with the professional game to understand the impact of the ‘relative age effect’ and what solutions might be developed

8. Identify opportunities for grassroots clubs to provide talent identification and development support to the professional clubs

9. Update The FA coaching strategy and promote The FA’s coaching philosophy across the whole game, including the development on an online resource

10. Ensure that age-appropriate qualifications are included in rules and regulations for the appointment of coaches

11. Establish a Coaches Academy network to bring together outstanding coaches of different levels and experiences on a regular basis for coach education opportunities

12. The FA to launch the Licensed Club for Coaches to kite-mark qualified and up-to-date coaches in the grassroots and professional coaching workforce

13. Work with the professional game and grassroots to ensure The FA supply of coach education staff is in tune with the demand across all levels of the game (seniors)

14. Work with the professional game and grassroots to ensure The FA supply of coach education staff is in tune with the demand across all levels of the game (youth)

15. The FA should undertake to report on an annual basis the latest available research on coaching techniques as well as an assessment of performance in terms of coach education, retention and development

16. Develop further opportunities to ensure that England international development team coaches work closely with clubs on the identification, development and transition of young England players into the U16 England development set-up

17. Expand and coordinate club visit programmes for the international to ensure that the international programme for individuals players is appropriate and consistent with their club-based development programmes

18. Encourage England teams at all developmental age groups to play with a consistent playing philosophy to ensure transition amongst teams is consistent

19. Overlay the transition of coaching staff individuals across age groups to provide continuity to young players progressing through the international teams

20. Require future England senior team coaches to have significant input into exposure to the national development team structure

21. Work with the professional game to consider ways to support the U17 – Under-21 age groups of developing young English players to ensure they maximise their opportunities for playing elite level football and their chances to experience the Club England environment

22. Agreement between The FA and the professional game on the mandatory release of players for international duty

23. Agreement to work with the professional game to collect and collate match performance, fitness and medical testing data to consider the impact of the English football calendar on pre-tournament fitness levels

24. Undertake research to better understand the ‘player experience’ of international tournaments to inform future decisions on preparation and environment

25. Formally engage with the leading professional clubs to share their experience on establishing the optimal preparation and environments to encourage player performance.

Dan Pope on LinkedinDan Pope on Twitter
Dan Pope
Writer at Teamer
Freelance writer, editor and copywriter, with a passion for grassroots sport. A right back turned football writer, Dan is the former editor of Club Website and has been lucky enough to work in the field of grassroots and community sport for the last 10 years.

Take the hassle out of organising your sports team with Teamer. Organise, communicate and take payments.


  1. Wayne Holiday on January 29, 2011 at 11:09 am

    These changes are obviously needed in the game, but the coaching from level three is becoming elitist. When do you ever see a professional/ex-professional cutting his teeth at grassroots level working with kids who are not very good and need encouragement and help.
    Volunteers start off with kids from 6/7 years old and then see them taken off them if they can make the grade. Ex-professionals who want to get into coaching should have to cut their teeth at grassroots clubs who have no money, no facilities and play on pitches akin to cow fields.
    More money should be provided to bring facilities up to 21st century standard and free to use for under 18s, and adult teams only allowed to use after 8pm

  2. Lewis Evans on February 28, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    I agree with Wayne’s comments but also think that there are a percentage of volunteer coaches out there who want to give real quality coaching to young players, I started coaching like many other because there was no-one to run my son’s team, I got the bug and am now more qualified than many academy coaches having completed the new youth modules 1 and 2 as well as level 1, 2 and 3 in football coaching but I have to work on in adequate pitches which have to be cleared of dogs mess before games, only get 1 hour a week on astro at a ridiculous cost to the team and I can’t get any more time because the adult teams in the area won’t give up their 6 until 7 slots etc and I can’t believe there are many parents who would be happy to allow their 7 year old to go training on a school night at 9.00pm at night! Until more time and money is allocated at grassroots level the same problems will be with us for a very long time.

  3. Bennington Crossley on February 28, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    I have to say that making youth football non competative until 13 years old seems a bit over the top. If we as coaches are to succsed in what we do then competition should be started at U9 not U13. I think the initial phase of U7 and U8 being non competative is a correct one, as this gives us time to education parents and others that some behavior on the touchline is not acceptable. But having said this making games competative is a must from 9 onwards and should be encouraged. After all most of these children are not going to make it as pro players but will be competing later on in life for jobs, cometing for university places, competeing for contracts in those jobs etc etc. Life is one big competition as it is in the natural world. Taking this away in a sport that everyone enjoys and has the right to play makes it seem a bit pointless.

    I also agree with what Wayne Holiday says and would like to add that its starting to feel that all coaches and kids at grassroots level seem to be there just for profesional clubs to come in a do what they want and then treat the grassroots club like dirt on the bottom of their boots. The centres of excellence seem to be just for the pro clubs to have an hold any child then when they dont make the grade kick them into touch.

    There are some changes taking effect now that really dont fill me with excitment but have me thinking wether I want to carry on with doing grassroots anymore, and if it continues the way its going you will find more and more kids turning away from the game, aswell as good potential coaches doing the same.

  4. Shaun Wooley on March 4, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Non competetive football until U13 big mistake! I train under 11’s with a quality bunch of players, some of which potentially could have impressive careers. There effort comes from knowing a scoreline, from leading 3-0 or losing 0-3 even if you don’t coach it. Even last night in an end of session game during training I was questioned over the last touch for a throw, a possible hand ball in the area, a passback/deflection. You don’t coach these desires but have to realise they natural when there is 100% commitment.
    The enemy is not competitive sport, if you enjoy something and are good at it, work hard to progress. If you enjoy football and don’t want to progress fine, enjoy at a lower level, both are fine. Generally I like the 25 points recommended but fear grassroot players will abandone the game if there is no early competition.

  5. Leon Osahon on March 7, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    One does not have to be a genius or failure at the 2010 world cup to realise that changes have been overdue for the past 20 years.

    As a club manager, I have raised the issue of oversize pitches and goals for junior football over many seasons with local and regional leagues.

    Its rather sad that it has taken the FA years to realise that kids arent being taught how to play, but only to win….. consequently, clubs (amateur & professional) prefer big, quick, strong players with grass for brains…

    As for the local regional administrators? they have been clueless as all along,. they could have forced the issue a long term ago, by introducing changes locally

    Personally, 11-a-side football should only be played from age 14. We need to be brave and completely overhaul the system even further.

    Award points to teams for playing the game the right way!

  6. mark sumner on March 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    I do agree that some changes do need to be made, Wayne makes some valid points and proffessional clubs could do more with their hunting ground at grass roots level, something that I believe is being adressed in some areas but not enough or anywhere near quick enough.
    The FA`s point on birth dates is also valid and is something that affected my eldest son when he played as a keeper, the local team did not encourage him enough due to him being the youngest keeper and smaller(August birthday) even though he was easily the better of the 2 in distribution and reading of the game. Typical of many parent coaches the big long kick anywhere was the rule. I think Leon`s comment on pro clubs only look at bigger lads is wrong and know this from personal experiance due to my youngest being in an Academy system in the north west and players from our club and the clubs we play against from Newcastle to birmingham and tournaments with london clubs and foreign teams that the pro clubs do infact cover from the smallest to the biggest lads available and they are chosen on skill not size, with the smaller ones often the quicker and most skillful of the groups. We do not play in leagues as they do in grass routes but the kids do find the result important all the same.
    We play 9V9 at under eleven but do introduce 11V11 games at this age to some games and I feel that is a good way of making the boy`s better understand the bigger picture and rules of the game. MY son has benefitted from small game sessions and been with clubs that use the 4v4 drills to encourage more touches and confidence on the ball and that is a good direction to work on particularly at the early ages and something that all clubs should do more of.
    Grass routes clubs and players would also benefit if the played the ball from the back rather than just boot and charge that many still tend to favour now, you may not always win but the kids would learn quicker and better skills using this method and the games would be more fun to all.

  7. C humphrey on March 8, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    non competitive Till U13 is a joke! Life is competitive the sooner you teach them the better understanding the kids will have !No? . Oversize pitches and goals are a problem, and the condition of some pitch are terrible. More money is needed . For the game to be played properly you need the pitches to do so.

  8. Davo on March 9, 2011 at 12:00 am

    I have two boys who love their football, one who has a win at all cost attitude and has won many trophies at the higher level and I have one son who just want to play football for fun and he has won trophies too at a lower level.

    The competition is still the same at both levels top and lower. when I have asked them about winning the league or winning the cup final for trophies are you bothered, the answer was no, I’m not bothered about the trophy said my win at all cost son I just love playing football and winning the game I’m playing in, but he is not bothered about trophies. When I ask him about development as a player, he said he would not play for a team if they did not have quality coaches, to hold constructive coaching session for him to develop has a player.

    My younger son likes his training session and being coached in a safe environment were he can have fun playing football with friends and taking part in matches, he is not bothered win or lose, trophies and league tables don’t make him tick.

    Both have played 7v7 for 4 years and 2 years at 9v9 before moving to 11v11 at 13 years old, it’s done them no harm and they don’t know any different.

    So it shows if we have better coaches to teach our children at all levels to develop with technique and skills, the trophies and league tables don’t matter. The better players still want to win and the fun players still get their enjoyment playing at the level they can compete in.

    I also spoke to an old friend about is 17 year son who is now working, is he still playing football I asked, no was the answer he loves the money he is making now and when I sit back and look at his junior football, he said “I think it was me who wanted it more than my son”

    Let the players mature and the better players will move on to an higher level if they are good enough and dads egos need to be put to one side.

    Most Children move out of football at 16 years old, to start new careers or go on to collage and because they can’t afford any injury and time off they stop playing football. (fact)

  9. Leon Osahon on March 9, 2011 at 12:20 am

    I believe the non-competitive element in the recommendations will always be contenscious.

    However, I beleieve it can only help to reduce the stress and the expectations of parents and coaches alike; and will enable the kids to pay more attention to understanding the game wholly…

    I find it extremely amusing when a kid of 10-12 comes in and claims to be a striker or midfielder etc… at that age, they lack tactical capacity…

    Consequently, 5, 7, 9 a-side football is needed for them to develop comprehensive literacy about movement, space, angles, anticipation, positioning etc… once they understand these factors, they become easier to train and will achieve more in the game…

    I think the FA should with the right investment go a little further, and make U10s play FUTSAL

    But I do concede that some form of reward must be appropriated to teams and coaches who play or attempt to play the game creatively and inventively.

  10. JOE SCOTT on March 10, 2011 at 3:20 pm



  11. sons football on March 18, 2011 at 11:14 am

    i hav watched grassroot football for years and the bigest problem at a young age 9 /10/11/12/13 is academys .scouts see a nice footballer and bam he is taken away from his youth team thinking his made it well i can tell u unless his special talent in 1 year hell b bak at his club havnt improved much and the smile gone of his face sunderland fc is the bigest culprits in football for using kids then chasing them after 6 months the academy should let players develop at club then take wen time is right i watched one parent surounded by scouts askin if son wanted to cum in for trials few weeks later he was told not good enough bye bye the kid gutted thats wat academys do to someone with a bit talent dont giv adam onto the next kid to mess up any other parent had same exsperiance to many to mention let kids enjoy a word u never hear at academys

  12. W J on March 21, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    First coment is right on the mark let the kids play football at there clubs where they enjoy it, this is where they learn to play in posistions and develop in to a team of players who will work for each other.

    Football is a team game requiring players of varying quality from the grafters to the silky all to often you see the silky players taken to pro youth clubs or youth academies then tossed to the side to be told they are not good enough at 10-11 years old.

    Recently our boys club played the local youth academy team and when the game finished 8-2 to our boys club team who have been together for 3 years , the comment from the youth academy coach said it all for me. It went like this




  13. mark strong on March 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    iv been coaching kids for a long time and i dont feel the younger kids eg august born get a fair deal as they are in most cases they not as strong as kids born eg september to december but in a lot of cases the younger kids are tecnicly better but miss out because of when they are born i think the cap should be made shorter like in other contries

  14. Granville on April 16, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    I have seen comments about competitive and non-competitive. Kids at U11 (yr 7) at school fully understand the concept of winning and losing and kids involved in football will always go out there to win, some will enjoy playing football wether they win or not and will just want to play, but still enjoy winning more than losing. Raising the age of competitive football to U13 will have absolutely no effect for me on players desire to win. For me it could be potentially a problem and lead to the boredom factor setting in because what can they strive for. When winning in football is so prevelent in the news, papers, TV, match of the day etc and this country is led by the press then this will always impact on the youth of the future.

    Now I coach U7 football and we play in a fair play league 7 a side. My kids are fantastic, we do not promote winning at all costs, I have two teams of 9 and we have chosen the teams on who are friends etc not abilities therefore we do not have an A and a B team we have mixed abilities. Although we do not talk about winning to them they are already having comments of we will win the next game, our response is just have fun. One 6 yr old said is better to win I enjoy it more. So what does raising the age of competitive football actually achieve, if they are unable to win or strive to win anything for another 7yrs wouldn’t you just get fed up training and playing?

    Now moving to the suggested teams sizes. Are we trying to increase numbers into grass route football or decrease them. The suggestion of 5 a side at U7 and U8 would mean at my age group I would have to lose 6-8 players. The reason for this me and my assistant run two teams have 20 players turn up for training as at u7 our league play 7 a side. If we moved to 5 aside we would be still only be able to run 2 teams what do I say to the other players? sorry you can not play. Now U7 and U8 are important yrs as this is when you can gets kids in and let them enjoy playing as they are getting used to the game. I would much rather see 7 a side from U7 and U8, then move to 9 a side U9-U11 and then move to 11 aside at U12. This allows the same progression into the full 11 aside with a better chance for coaches to structures sessions on positions and keep the kids interested as at U9 they are learning about the game all the time and understand the concept of the rules and the 11 aside game. Again my U7’s in one season have learnt defense, midfield and strikers, this progress would allow a quicker progress which surely helps the future game. It also allows for more kids to play with the same number of coaches. This format of 9 aside from U9 would mean where clubs who have two U7 and U8 teams would continue to have two teams at U9 to U11 and then are more likely to have two teams at U12. Again surely this is better to keep as many kids involved as possible. To help promote this clubs who run this type of setup should recieve financial support from the FA to help maintain running costs.

    The question should be how to get as many kids playing this fantastic game at the earliest opportunity, ask the kids what they want either competitive or non competitive football (it we are making decisions for the kids we have to consider what they want), how to make coaching positions easier, how to get kids up to the 11 aside game the easiest and quickest way so they can understand positions, styles of play, etc.

    So for me the FA have a number of floored assumptions based on what they think the kids want. Although changes are needed, with all this money the FA have they should be buying grassland around the areas which they rent out at prices clubs can afford to ensure we have access to pitches that are the required size for the age groups and therefore benefiting the children. They want to invest in the future the grass routes are the future, invest there and not in the big clubs

  15. colin harrison on May 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    i think a lot of these proposals are good but one other issue being overlooked is despite the FA carrying out a very detailed survey there is still nothing place to allow mixed football to be played for a further two years changing from under 11 upto under 13 as i know a few girls within the tjfa playing now who after thier next birthday are going to be left out as not enough other girls playing to form a team of thier own and even then would have no one to play against,

  16. 'Lozz' on October 6, 2011 at 12:00 am

    I’ve been involved in junior football for 40 years now and what really bothers me is that the main people behind these changes are people who have never been involved in the real grass-roots of the game. I bet nobody has ever seen Sir Trevor Brooking or Gareth Southgate up a ladder on a Sunday putting up goalnets. I have to ask if all this re-structuring of the kids’ game really is for the benefit of child development or is it to try and enhance England’s chances of ever winning the World Cup again. Over 400,000 kids play in youth leagues in the UK of which less than 1% actually go on to make a career in the professional game.

    Most kids like competitions, tournaments, leagues and cup competition but all this will be taken away from 398,000 of them just for the sake of the 2,000 or so who may become players, It’s like using a steam-roller to open a peanut. I have no problem with academies or Centres of Excellence adopting these changes because they have got the so-called more talented kids on their books. Just let the youth leagues run their affairs how they want to, not how the FA wants them to because hardly any kids playing in youth league will become proo footballers.

    Kids and coaches will become bored with playing endless and meaningless friendly games for years on end. They want more of a buzz and I think many will take up other sports to seek that buzz and a challenge that football won’t give them.

    I believe it is inevitable that before too long non-affiliated leagues will spring up around the country so that kids can achieve more of a challenge without the restraints of the FA who seem to want to play God to children and run their lives. Sir Trevor and Co. will be telling kids what they can and can’t have for breakfast next.

  17. david pitt on December 30, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    i am a club secratury for a youth football club.we have a lot of children who want to join us but our problem is financal we are struggleing to get sponsors and when i try to get funding i seem to hit a brick wall,i have men and women wanting to help us with coaching and volanteering but as a club we cant afford it as we feel it is unfair to keep asking them to keep paying for it themselves’.

    how about if there was a chance were the club payed for a group to go for coaching courses and there was a discount for it, the club would benifit financaly and have more coaches to help with the teams be able to get more children involved in football.

    dave (red star utd)

  18. Patrick Hunter on January 1, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    I have been involved with the game as a player and as a Team Manager over a 60 year period.I am now vice chaiman of my club who are in top level amatuer football.We do not pay our players and run 5 senior mens teams and a vets side.
    When I started playing aged 9 it was in the school playground then the local park then selection for school teams.At 17 I was offered a trial with a professional club but declined as I wished to pursue a business career particularly as pro,s could only earn £20pw in the season and £15pw out of season.Never had any professional coaching as a boy like many of my peers.My generation of players won the world cup in 1966 and british players then were practicaly the only pro players playing within the professional game.

    As a grandfather with a grandson just 10 I support his interest within his regular sunday team and his various training centers.However at school (year5) he is not allowed ,with his c ontempories to play football at his breaktimes plus as he attends a minor school does not have the opportunity to be selected for his district team?

    The moral of the story is that to many people without any sporting acumen and sporting attitude are trying to run the game.

    As many of the other contributours to this column state let the kids keep kicking a ball for enjoyment. Those that could be professionals probably will be and those who do not can still get the enjoyment and comaraderie that I enjoyed over the years….but not be ing able to kick a ball around a playground….give me strength!

  19. johnpaul on February 10, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    i am a grass root player suffering from financial assistance to enter into club in other to display my talent and many good player in the country suffering this same problem.
    Assisting the young players, i strongly believe that football will move to higher level than before.

  20. greg williams on March 26, 2012 at 10:54 am

    im a school teacher and youth coach,ive completed my level 1 coaching certificate and would like to complete other fa bages thats on offer, but both level 2 and uefa b lisence is expensive and it runs over a lengthy period of time,therefore i cannot afford to take time of work because most of coaching sessions runs threw normal hours of work.most of courses on offer is suitable for students and not for people like myself who is older and in full time employment.

  21. Mark on May 29, 2012 at 11:24 am


    Is this the Lozz from Mount Nod, whose manager shouts at players when they win 8-0? Well, have you actually asked children what they want?

    Ask a child…

    Do you prefer ti be a sub and win or play the whole match and lose? Most say play and lose.

    The manager wants to win.

    16 players at 11 a side? What a joke. Where is the inclusion? Of course the manager’s son will always play.

    To a child, yes, child, it is more important to play than win. Leagues are not as important as to play and have fun. This also means playing in different positions (for defenders, and perhaps midfielders).
    It’s called player development and not forced positions.

    Lozz, you are a dinasour, wanting to win at all costs because you failed as a player.

  22. Dan on June 7, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Yes Mark! Lozz I have to agree you are the very root of the problem with the young game. I would argue if you’ve been involved in youth football for 40 years that’s 39 years too many!

Join the discussion