The FA’s new Head of Elite Development, currently supporting the Your Kids Your Say roadshow, believes the time is right to make changes to youth football in England.
Football has changed since Gareth Southgate was a boy and, through his new role at the FA, he hopes to help the English game change with it.
“When I was a lad growing up, the FA Cup final was the only match on TV. We now see European football every weekend,” he says.
“I think people are rightly raising the question now, why aren’t we technically playing the same way as the Spanish, Portuguese or Italians. I think there’s a generation of fathers saying that this is what they want for their kids.”
Southgate was talking at Nantwich Town FC on the Cheshire leg of the FA’s Your Kids Your Say roadshow, a tour of 16 towns and cities across England to discuss proposed changes to the structure of the youth football system.
The radical proposals – detailed in February’s edition of The Clubhouse – include the introduction of five-a-side and nine-a-soccer, no 11-a-side football until under-13s level and the scrapping of league tables for all children of primary school age.
The grassroots community has been keenly debating the changes since they were first announced – as we’ve found here on Club Website – and Southgate thinks that taking the debate around the country can only be a good thing.
“People in every part of the country will have great ideas and we have to be taking those ideas on board, and explaining the vision – explaining that it’s not just something we have dreamed up, it’s something which is based on a lot of research, not just here but across Europe.
“If you are going to lead anything, you have got to bring people with you. Not everybody is going to agree with everything but, if you look back at when mini-soccer was introduced, I think now everyone would agree that has been a great thing.
“The process of how we got there people might disagree with, and so it’s important people get the opportunity to say how they feel. But once they see the reason, a lot of it is just common sense.
“I honestly think there is a mood for change, and that’s countrywide – not just pockets – and the word is spreading quickly.
“I’m on Twitter and when you put messages out, there’s a lot of reaction from coaches or dads and the same messages keep coming back: we go to 11 v 11 too early, we’ve got to control parents, we’ve got to develop coaches. We’ve just got to get on and do it, but not before we’ve listened.”
Join the FA’s roadshow and have your say!
The FA are one quarter of the way through their Your Kids Your Say roadshow, which runs until September – click here for date & venue details.
If you can’t attend the roadshow but would still like to have your say, the FA is inviting parents, coaches and club administrators to email their comments to email@example.com.