FA proposals for youth football – one step to go

Football Association plans for a radical overhaul of youth football in England are just one step away from becoming reality.

The youth development proposals include a revised player pathway focused on small-sided football – including new 5v5 and 9v9 formats – up to the under 12s age group and a child-friendly approach to competition up to under 11s.

The ambitious plans received the approval of the FA Council earlier this month, leaving just one more hurdle to negotiate – a vote by FA shareholders at the AGM on 28 May – before work can begin on implementing the proposals.

If 75% of FA shareholders approve the rule changes relating to the revised player pathway and new competition formats then they will become mandatory practice, being phased in from the youngest age groups from the 2013/14 season onwards.

The most controversial element of the original proposals – a de-coupling of school and grassroots football age groups to combat the Relative Age Effect – was omitted from the proposals put to FA Council, although the FA will revisit this issue in due course.

For Nick Levett, the FA’s National Development Manager for Youth and Mini Soccer and the man behind the proposals, the AGM vote represents the final hurdle of a two and a half year project featuring extensive research and a nationwide consultation procedure, including over 125 events and engaging over 4,000 parents and coaches.

“I think we’re in a good place,” Levett told Club Website. “I hope that we’ve done enough. This is the next 15 to 20 years of youth football we’re talking about here.”

“[LMA Chairman and author of the FA’s 1997 Charter for Quality] Howard Wilkinson stood up at the Council meeting and said that this was the most exciting and aspirational piece of work that he’d seen the FA do in years.

“If he recognises that it’s the right thing to do for the development and support of young players in the game, then we must be on the right track.”

The omission of the Relative Age Effect element of the proposals represents the biggest change to the FA’s final recommendations published in January.

This exclusion, says Levett, was due to “some concerns around it being the right solution, so it was decided it was best not to take that forward.

“That doesn’t mean that it’s off the agenda. It’s still a hugely important thing that we need to address. We can’t pretend it doesn’t exist, but maybe that wasn’t the right solution.”

Levett concedes that, were it down to him, the proposals being put forward to FA stakeholders might look slightly different, but he is happy that they represent the views of the majority of the grassroots community – the very point behind the FA’s extensive consultation.

Whilst the original plans may have been whittled down, the two proposals being put to the vote on 28 May still represent the biggest change to youth football since the introduction of mini soccer in 1999 – and they arguably go way beyond that.

If voted in, for the first time ever children will only begin to play on full size pitches at under 13s level while, for teams up to under 11s, the traditional league format will be replaced by three six-week ‘trophy events’, allowing all teams to play ‘competitive’ football for 18 weeks of a 26 week season, rather than all compete for a single league trophy over an entire season.

Club Website will bring you further details of the two elements of the proposals before the AGM on 28 May, so watch this space over the coming weeks for more details of what’s in store.

Got a question? Let us have it!

If you have any questions on the final proposals, please leave us a comment below. We’ll collate your feedback and will put your queries to Nick Levett and his team.

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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.

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  1. Darryll Walker on April 27, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    interesting proposals. Working in grassroots and running school football teams at Year 5 and Year 6, I’d like to know more about this de-coupling and what affect it would have on schools football and representative football

  2. Dennis Leonard on April 27, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Should have done this years ago. Whilst extremely welcome, especially for the u8-u11 we will still be playing catch-up with the Dutch, Germans etc.
    Very happy that the de-coupling has not gone through at present because the disruption to current teams would be quite enormous. Kids like playing sports with their same age school friends.
    Barnham Trojans FC.

  3. Dudley on April 27, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Well done FA all you have done is listened to coaches who dont want their teams split up. The main part of these proposals was relative age. You are clearly only interested in kids that were born between September and December. You have simply messed up again and once again England stands out on a limb. I listened to Gareth Southgate making people look small who dared to question that relative age was not the most major factor in kids playing the game. Now I suppose he will deny he even said it.
    A great opportunity missed.

  4. Jon Bus on April 27, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Unfortunately the de-coupling would have been too late for my three boys June / July u12 & u16 & I’m not sure it would have that much effect anyway – a full six months would be better i.e. start the cut off at end Feb. I think a quarter way house would probably be to number the squad chronologically depending when they were born – not an exact science however any watching scout would know that no. 33 would be significantly younger than no. 1 !!!

  5. Craig on April 27, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    What a load of rubbish it’s not all about producing players for England. What about just letting the kids enjoy playing football the way they watch the hero’s play…..
    Yet again the FA thinking of themselves at not all kids involved.

  6. Rob Bailey on April 27, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    To me the biggest issue is relative age. The relatively younger children currently suffer both at school and playing the sport they love, by often being over-looked by older kids that may be physically stronger or quicker (because of their age). I thought the original FA proposals for relative age were good, so it’s a major dispointment that they are not being taken forward now. Why the sudden change of heart?

  7. Bill Tyson on April 27, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    For those living in the bigger cities, where schools football is a larger concern, I can understand why “de-coupling” may seem a solution. But here in the rural areas, where schools football is non-existant, “de-coupling” would only prevent school friends from playing football together at their clubs. It’s hard to assess whether relative age effect is an issue here, but in this instant the “broad brush” solution would shift the situation but solve nothing.

    I applaud the F.A. for trying to change things for the better at grass roots level. Only time will tell if the ideas are good ones but smaller sided football, such as 9v9 at Under 11 & 12 must be the right choice. But when are you going to change things for the better at the top. On this very page there’s a link stating that: “Young footballers must see respect to show respect.” When will the top players be forced to show respect??

  8. nextstars on April 27, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    The best “reform” for English football is for her young players to progress in Spain

  9. Andy Tiernan on April 27, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    I think this is great what the FA are putting in place, but let’s say you have a child that is a lot more advanced than others in his team at 9v9 & he is a under 11,would you play him up 1 year in the 13s a year late at 11 aside ?

  10. Ross on April 27, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    I’m glad they left the de-coupling of the age alone.
    Most of the kids play in a team as they know the kids from school. They play because they enjoy football but also as they want to be with their school friends. De-coupling this from the school year and running it Jan to Dec will just move the problem from one part of the year to another. Unless there is an overlap and the choice is given to the child which age group to go in, you’ll always have this issue. At the end of the day more kids will play football with their friends in their school year than not.
    The other proposals look good, my U11 team have played on adult pitches this year and it’s just to large for them. Small sided games is a great idea, it’s just been a long time coming.

  11. David Blackmore on April 27, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    What will the situation be for next years u11’sthat have had a year playing 11 a side. Will they be expected to move back to 9v9 the following year. This would surely just confuse children that have already moved to a new format. Gradual introduction through the relevant age groups should definitely be encouraged.

  12. Clifford Sturmey. on April 27, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    After the time and effort spent going around the country, and having attended a well thoughout and modern proposals at one of the workshops to take the game forward.

    I believe it was one giant step forward, but 2 slightly less steps backwards.

    Nick, show us some back bone, as I believe the F.A. are only playing lip services once again.

    The coaches are right behind you, those that have consideration for the kids.

    A development officer is there for a purpose, so honestly, can you state you have achieved what you set out to do, and achieved the mandate placed before you?

    The de-coupling was a major task, but do you believe it will happen, if so, when, and explain the benefits, not to the F.A., but to the Press, as this is required to be aired, and properly.

    Has any real difference been achieved now that a watered down version of major change, having gone around the country. 5 v5 and 9v9, is basically a change of numbers, with time frames.

    Is that enough questions to put before N.L.

  13. Kev Newton on April 27, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    The FA have it totally right here, take your personal issues of childrens age etc… you can see this is right.

    Im pleased they have dropped the age effect because that to me is wrong and applies to all levels of life. However I am pleased they are going back to revisit and may discuss this for the right reasons (bring it in line with the rest of the football world).

    Hopefully this opportunity will be grasped to make a deference and see the enjoyment football can really bring to enhance a young players respect for the game and his/her team mates whilst developing their own social skills.

  14. Mike Lewis on April 27, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    The Football association of Wales have already implemented this system for the last couple of years. why have no-one spoken with them to see how they are getting on with this system..
    again England are playing catch-up

  15. Steve Johnson on April 27, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    What the fa hasn’t considered , is when clubs have 2 teams at 7 a-side they both normally have at least 10 players each. More often than not the clubs only have facilities to accomadate 1 team at under 11’s. This means as we go 9v9 instead of keeping the majority of your players , we are now getting rid of more kids from football than we ever have.
    If you want to give football to everyone you need to help out clubs which firstly don’t have enough facilities and secondly help fund the cost of the change over, which include pitch hires and cost of goals.

    Steve Johnson manager South Park u10’s

  16. mac brit on April 27, 2012 at 11:08 pm


  17. mark barlow on April 28, 2012 at 7:45 am

    What we don’t have in england to play 5v5 and 9v9 games, is enough facilities like the 3G pitches, especially when the weather is unpredictable. If we had this then we could Have summer leagues for grass and 3G, then futsal winter leagues in sports halls or indoor 3G.
    Mandatory for More primary schools taking part in mini soccer, schools v schools festivals.

  18. Rob on April 28, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Its good news that the 9v9 format is being introduced. However, it will do nothing for the long term development of the English game and this is because professional Youth Academies in the Premier League are saturated with young foreign players and so the English players will still not get a look in. The 5v5 format is a complete waste of time and will just mean that youth clubs will have to pay additional affiliation fees for the additional teams. My club has 14 teams across 3 different leagues and we pay in excess of £1000 per year just in league & county FA affiliation fees alone and so I bet the already wealthy County FA’s are rubbing their hands with the thought of extra money coming in. This then also begs the question of who is going to fund the changes to council pitches and additional pitch hire fees? It won’t ever be the FA as they’re only really concerned about the next TV deal with Sky.

    One more thing…Everyone is getting excited about the way the Dutch academies work. Why? What good has it done their national and club team? The Dutch league is no better that the Championship and Holland have won one trophy in the last 50 years. We should instead be looking at how the Americans are currently coaching their players and you’ll see that all the top academies in the States are run by ENGLISH coaches!

  19. shaun foers on April 28, 2012 at 10:57 am

    I have just returned from Spain (Costa Brava) with my son and the major difference is the facillities.Each town has an astroturf pitch or 3g pitch and it is available to the community to use.

  20. Clifford Sturmey. on April 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    The purpose of de-coupling, to what I believe is the interpreation of N. Levett, and the F.A. was to stop the loss of the younger players from dropping out of football at mid youth level 14 to 16 y.o.a., but also to ensure the so-called weaker players have a greater chance of developing in the mini-sided aspects of the games, having been born in the May/August of a school year.

    Having now reduced the games to 5v5 and 9v9, have we not increased the problem, as we require fewer weeker players to make a team, and increase competitiveness, and lose even more players from the game at an earlier age, as squad sizes are smaller.

    So much for development.

    Who are the bozo,s that have self interests first, that the de-coupling will affect the kids, as they want to play with their mates. It is possible, but I have always found parents move their kids to teams that want to win trophies.

    The F.A. gave Nick Levett a licence to develop the game, especially at grass-roots, it has now been watered down so much to become inaffective. The F.A. are the dinasaurs with a mentality of 1863, and despite the fact of almost 150 years of experience, we continue to see the development of such countries of Spain, Germany and Holland, who get hold of the game and are not frightened of change.

    I wonder why they are above us in the FIFA seedings table, I assume the teaching of technique has nothing to do with their success.

    Nice to see we will have a care-taker manager in place for the European Championships this summer.

    There is I believe a position vacant for a ‘Yes’ man to represent the F.A.’s responsibilities to their various committees to advise that everything is going well at grass-roots football. It seems no-one cares beyond the F.A. Charter Standard clubs, and even this is dubious.

  21. Chris Horton on April 28, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Embrass the change. Football will lose out to other sports and interests for young people unless it evolves and adapts. The FA can hardly be accussed of rushing in any changes or of not consulting or listening. I think what has been proposed and is being put to the vote is exactly what is required in order to address all that is currently wrong with youth football.
    More young people will continue to enjoy and play football, more opportunity for them to improve and showcase their talent, better chance for the country to spot our future footballing stars.
    Come. On. England! (read these 3 words carefully as it really does some things up)

  22. Dave from Sedgley on April 28, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    Just a few comments, which address only a few of the problems in football development.
    Coaching courses far too expensive in terms of time and money.
    Academies should be stopped from poaching young players, which damages teams and generally ruins their dreams.
    Facilities need to be improved and need to be reasonably proportioned to age ranges.
    Primary Schools are lacking in male teachers, thus players have little opportunity for development before 11 years of age. Parent volunteers are subjected to CRB checks which take time and money.
    There is nothing wrong with winning, but there has to be some serious teaching on how to lose with grace and positivity.
    Why is all the money at the top of the game, so little percolates down to the grassroots.
    How can we teach skills when we still see international players unable to use their “wrong” foot. Doesn’t send the right signals.
    Behaviour of Pros really has to be addressed. these people, like it or not, are role models.
    Schools and councils need to make their facilities accessible at inexpensive prices. Schools are closed 13 weeks of the year and you rarely see their facilities in use. What a waste.
    Pro Football clubs need to be much more involved with local development.
    British youth should be given opportunities in the Premier League, but the clubs only want to buy immediate success, which means one team of foreign mercenaries playing another like team – what relevance has this to local young players.
    There is a lack of a coherent approach, The FA simply doesn’t understand grassroots. As long as the Premier League can make money for them, they are quite happy.
    There is much more to comment on, but I expect mine and other’s comments to be ignored.
    Finally, my qualification, teaching and coaching qualifications and 50+ years as player, coach and manager, all ages and up to semi-pro level!!

  23. Peter Lodge on April 28, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    When I started to coach it was because my Son started to play football at 5 and I was asked to look after the team. As they progressed so did I in my coaching education. The two went hand in hand. I now am secretary of 18 youth teams in South London and for me to ask a parent to run a team the first thing I need to know is how many weeks holiday they get from work as they will have too give me one week to do their level one course. I will then get them CRB checked and they will become a first aider and all the trappings of looking after children. This is not all bad but time consuming and very costly. When I get asked why we are not technically as good as the Sapnish or Dutch you only have to look at the facilities, including cost and the weather. Once we hit November it is dark at 4 00 and we have to pay for flood lites. The FA need to re direct their funds. Get every Premier league player to donate one weeks wages to an area and see what effect that will have on our game.

  24. Dave on April 29, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    I actually like a lot of the ideas that have been suggested. I think the biggest concern for me is the cost of running a team. It is difficult to get decent pitches as it so unless something changes (perhaps with the school pitch layouts) teams may struggle on all the different team sizes.

    Also, I may have misunderstood the original proposal concerning the relative age effect.

    Was the idea for age brackets based on birth year, if so, wont the more physically mature players generally be from the early months. In this case we aren’t really resolving the issue, just changing the months, or is it based on age? e.g. when players are 11 they player for the 1 year olds? In outliers Malcolm Gladwell suggested (I think in Denmark) that they split the year group in half. It would mean more admin for leagues (potentially twice as many leagues) but we would at least have 2 sets of physically mature players.

    All in all, I must admit I like a lot of the plans and think providing that the FA push on with it in full the future of English football could be very promising.

  25. keith on April 29, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    I for one are glad the FA are’nt changing the age format as it would destroy my under 12’s team. Some of the proposals seem workable, but they still do not seem interested in the fact that kids just want to play & enjoy the game they love, so they have to keep messing with it to make themselves look good!

  26. Lewis Evans on April 30, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Like many others I too was concerned about having to reduce my current squad of 18/20 Under 9’s to a smaller manageable squad of 12 to play 9-a-side in a year’s time, and all I was being told was to create another team with the excess players, which as we all know isn’t that easy. On speaking to many other managers in the same position we approached our league and came up with a successful compromise.

    It was agreed that we would create two divisions for the bigger clubs who have the bigger squads and these clubs would continue to play two games of 9-a-side with an aggregate score, in the same way we currently do with 7-a-side.

    We would also keep two divisions for the smaller clubs who only wish or can field a reduced squad of players or haven’t got enough to play two games.

    The split across all of our clubs was about even so has worked out really well.

    The main thing though is no-one has had to ask boys and girls to leave due to them being surplus to requirements, in fact in some cases we will all be recruiting more and we will be in a good position to be able to offer maximum game time to every child for every minute of every game every week.

    Quite simply a great result!!

    The question did arise around ‘what would we do when they eventually go to 11-a-side’ this answered itself as by the time children tend to get to Under 13/14’s there is a natural wastest which will naturally drop most of the bigger squads down to a manageable 15 or so, just right for 11-a-side.

    We now don’t need any more pitches, and we won’t incur costs around having to create many new teams and finding parents/coaches etc to run them with the cost of courses etc.

  27. Jackie Smith on April 30, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    The problem we have is that we are a small club and have to share our ground with other teams. There is not enough room at the ground to mark out the inbetween size pitch for under 11’s team. The groundstaff will not mark out a pitch on the full size pitch as these will always be in use by 11 a side teams. This means that we will not be able to run a team until they reach the age of 13, by then the players will have gone to other clubs who are able to provide the 9 v 9 format. Also what about expense, small clubs will have to purchase the new size goals in order to play and in the current climate not easy to do. One size does not fit all and we are disappointed that this could mean the end of our small village club.

  28. Judyfootballshirt on May 1, 2012 at 3:07 am

    Tomorrow will be better

  29. Paul on May 1, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    I think the proposals are good. Does anyone remember the outcry when mini soccer was first suggested. I do . Also very glad that the F.A listened to all the many emails re the age proposals and that this has been left alone. As a Level 2 Coach and FA Youth Award Mod 1 and 2 I agree with earlier comments about cost of courses, but think we are in a much better position with Grassroots than 5 years ago..

  30. Clifford Sturmey. on May 1, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    There are a great many people that are self interest and not the development of the game.

    Your team, progress for the benefit of the kids, it is their football and not yours, the responsibility to to coach the young.

    No wonder we have a desparate situation at grass-roots level. Selfish behaviour.

  31. Clifford Sturmey. on May 2, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    A suggestion to N.L. regarding the de-coupling.

    If this is an area of concern, have they considered approaching the leagues to suggest that the September to August, could be split into 2 age ranges if it is the physical size and power that is the main problems for drop outs.

    So September to February, being one squad, and March to August, for a 2nd squad, this way, the coaches will still retain their full squads and more players will get more playing time, so long as players from one section do not get moved to the other section.

  32. Antony Drears on May 4, 2012 at 1:00 am

    In my opinion they should of enforced the de-coupling. Big mistake FA. Leading developing europeans do it. It works. As most of us know the “skeletal ” “bio” up until 10-11 are so different it was crying out for this for the sake of the childs development in the game as its the early key years.

    Its non-competitive so why not ?? Where some clubs have 1 team in an age narrow minded managers will sieve out the younger boys, usually because of “physical presence ” by the age of 11 or earlier !!! Give these children a chance too enjoy and develop in the early years.

    I agree that children should play with friends BUT its not school its grassroots football. Most clubs will have players from various schools playing together so friendships will be made within the teams …. Its part of the 4 corners “social”.

    Let the children make new and there own friends in teams.

    I understand girl academies have got the de-coupling already in force. Seems to be working for them fine.

    Strange decision. Big mistake FA and we need to change etc. only way forward. Bad news for the younger players especially they are the higher percentage of the smaller ones.

  33. steve reeves vane on May 4, 2012 at 9:55 am

    we are already doing the 1st part of what is suggested in our league, my u13s will play 11 aside as of next season which i think is right having started at u9 7v7 then getting to u11 9v9 now is the time for them to go to 11v11. as for the 2nd part of it dont understand what those kids target is for a season children know what a season is they know who won and lost football is a competitive sport, dont like the 2nd part of the proposal think non competitive may force kids into other competitive sports, life is competitive.

  34. Gary Taylor on May 4, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Liking the shorter ‘trophy events ‘ for younger players idea BUT still think a lot is down to the coaches and more especially the parents and their mindsets. Until a way is found to stop all the better players congregating at one team (not neccessarily down to the coaches) which must impact the survival of others then the same problems will still exist albeit in a more controlled environment. Better balanced teams will increase overall standards and as long as there are clear pathways for higher ability children of every age then local/neighbourhood football could concentrate on being the fun learning experience that these changes intend it to be. I think some of the changes are also more practical at an academy level than at genuine grassroots level and also feel that Leagues need to be more responsive to the ‘needs’ of the clubs on a local basis i.e. teams in rural areas may face differing problems to us BUT do either of us get the say so and support from the FA and Leagues to change things. I think not and at times the FA disciplinary system seems like a vast fundraising machine that fails to deal with the actual issues involved at grassroots whilst penalising all and sundry financially including many volunteers, but without providing any corrective education for offenders. Is ‘Sine Die’ really the final solution ? Football should be working harder socially for kids in deprived areas and be seen to do so. Why not add a 25% surcharge to fines in the professional game that can be passed directly to grassroots in order to fund all the new goalposts and pitches required by the changes. If neccessary it could be a voluntary TAX but publish the names of the players involved especially those who refuse to pay it and then let the supporters of these clubs decide.

  35. Keith Print on May 4, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    I agree with most of the FA proposals, but a couple of people have already touched on the main problems, the first being not enough pitches, the councils are giveing up less and less money and time in maintaining the pitches we already have without introducing intermediate pitches.
    Secondly and probably most importantly, you can change the size of teams and pitches all you like but the main problem in youth football is the coaches, they are mostly voluteer parents with little experience, or coaches with win at all cost mentality.
    The FA shouold be making it a priority to get ALL coaches of youth football qualified in training, maybe shortened courses of an evening or morning.

  36. John Gilding on May 8, 2012 at 1:28 am

    Hooray !
    The FA have used common sense re the age banding.
    Also the pitch sizes etc. It makes sense to have all different size pitches, but in practice where does all the space come from to have all these different size pitches?

    Kids in the same year at school should play together. Teamwork is all mportant and friends from school go and play for the same teams usually. Whatever age break you use, some kids will be 11 months older that others, regardless of it being 1st Jan or 1st September start date.

    The FA at least consulted and had the guts then to rethink some of the changes.

    If only they had kept the number of girls Centres of Excellence…… Girls at under 16 and under 18 level don’t have the time to travel to a C of E twice a week and spend all Saturday travelling and playing matches to distant other C of Es. These are their GCSE and A level years !!!!! They need qualifications as not all will be footballers at Pro level…….

    Please F.A. relook at this or lots of girls will be lost to football at this level.

  37. Debi on May 8, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    We have over 2000 parents in our small league so engaging circa 4000 is not representative of the number of footballing leagues in England, maybe they didn’t really want to knwo what parents really thought, but more importantley has anyone asked the kids themselves, I suspect not. Kids want to play football .

  38. John on May 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Skills need to be practiced through playing. That used to happen in the park, for hours and hours at weekends and evening. Now we coach the skill in an hour at training. Really what we should do for the little’uns is coaching for an hour, but then let them have the run of the park to do whatever they want (which might not be football). Football used to be about freedom, a kids world, parklife. Now its coached, regulated and the park is often empty outside of training times. If we’re not careful, the passion will go out of it.

    Just send them up the park and let them get on with it.

    We don’t have great facilities in some areas, but when you see a park empty on a Sunday afternoon you can say its not the lack of facilities that is the main problem.

    Oh, and hands of the parents – if a dad gets a bit over keen and shouts at a ref, its not the end of the world. Just tell him to stop, or take the mick – that usually works.

  39. BRIAN ARCHER on May 10, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    The reports that I have receiv;sed back from friends who have attended Mr Levett:s so called road show, many of who have spent more years playing and supporting grassroot football, than Mr Levett has spent wearing long trousers. I think from all accounts he considers himself to be a bit of a salesman, being an ex salesman of some repute, he appears to have forgotten one of the key factors in being a success at selling, that is listening. Apparently in front of witnesses he has denied he has said things that he said at previosly meetings. He has either a very selective memory with respect to the questions raised or is not telling the truth. His in depth survey of 1500 persons is totally inadequate when you consider the nunber of players involved in junior football. I believe the figure to be in the region of 4 million, I feel sure that the FA can supply me with the exact figure. Even the most myopic of people interested might think that the number contributing to the survey was extremely small if taken as a percentage of the players involved in the game. Hardly democratic but unfortuneately that sums up the FA. Despite being asked several times Mr Levett refuses to divulge the contents of the survey or the details or evidence of the replies he received. Mr Levett has at least 2 jobs one at Fulham and one at the FA. If we look at the Fulham first team squad for this year, there are a few ex Fulham academy players included but I believe only 1 player has played for the first team in the league. Stop mucking around at grassroot level on the pretence that this is the way to improve the national side, Fulham had a good run in the youth cup relatively recently but like most premier league teams they want instant success and refuse to give youth a chance.
    Can I suggest the following, look at the top of the pyramid first if the FA want to improve the international side. Stop worrying you will ose the lucrative backing of the premier league even if it means cutting the lavish expenditure at the FA. Employ people who do not make fools of themselves at international conventions such as Qatar, where people may have felt that the representative had been at the cooking sherry. Yes I know Qayar is a dry country but I have probably been there more times than anybody at the FA.
    Come out of your offices, look at the work that unpaid people do in raising monies, giving up there time to run and organise leagues and teams, fund raise, prepare pitches, build facilities, so that kids can enjoy themselves. Mark out the pitches, understand the mechanics and the praticalities of the changes you want to introduce. Speak to the local authorities to ensure that they will be able to comply with the pitch arrangements that will be required. Please remember lots of clubs rely on park pitches, or better still, use the undoubted control you excercise over the premier league to get them to open their training pirches to Sunday youth teans. Ensure that all the county FAs have a youth football representative sitting on their committee, perhaps a good place to start could be Kent.
    Can I also suggest that the FA get their own house in order first following the recent all party criticism, most clubs are run with a much more professioal approach

  40. Steve Lowe on May 12, 2012 at 7:36 am

    4,000 Parents and coaches consulted !!
    Guys you are way of the mark , i’me not sure what’s more worrying , the percentage of coaches and parents you haven’t consulted with or the fact that you haven’t spoken to a single child !!

  41. Ben on May 14, 2012 at 6:49 am

    The people rubbishing these proposals, is an example of why England has not won an international competition for 40 years. Too many people afraid of change, These reforms should have been implemented 10 years ago

  42. Lisa Messitt on May 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    What is the youngest age a player can be to play under 12s at 9v9?

  43. Nick L on May 18, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Thanks for all the comments, will try and reply to a few.

    Part of the process out on the road and going round the country as listening to the views of the grassroots game. One of the discussions around splitting the school and club year received mixed views, as it has done on here, so we decided it wasn’t the right thing to do at this time. It doesn’t mean that birth bias isn’t an issue, it most certainly is, but that maybe this wasn’t the right solution.

    There were a number of misconceptions about this though and the one big thing to state was this would NOT have split any existing teams up.

    David Blackmore – a team should not play 11v11 and then go back to 9v9, that doesn’t make any sense! You should speak to your league to ensure that doesn’t happen. The plans are to phase in any changes so they don’t go back a stage and the leagues should take this route.

    Clifford – my mandate was to gather the views from the game and shape them into a future plan for youth football. They aren’t my ideas as such and if it was my plan, I would do something different! Therefore these are the ones we feel the majority supported around the country and ultimately this has to go through a democratic voting process at the AGM.

    Mike L – yep, we speak to the other home nations as part of a UK group we have in place, some of the other countries are doing some exciting pieces of work in player development too.

    Steve and Mac – agree, facilities is going to be a challenge in the short-term, no different to the challenge we had when Mini-Soccer was brought in. The Football Foundation have got some ring-fenced money to fund 9v9 goals, there are some excellent examples across the country of County FA’s and local leagues putting funding packages together to buy the goals as well. An extension set to a samba goal is about £300 and when some clubs I know spend £6000 a year on trophies, it might mean a little bit of reprioritising in the short-term. Please contact your local County Development Manager about pitches and facilities, this is their job to help you so please tap into their expertise and support.

    Brian Archer – thanks for the long message although it is noted what you have written comes third hand having never spoken to me directly before. Salesman?! Certainly not, far from it! Regarding the comments about Fulham – yes, I coach an Under 10 team of children, and have done there for three years. Not sure I’m to blame for anything in the first team. This comes on the back of 14 years coaching in grassroots from U8-U14, coach mentoring and Chairing grassroots coaches associations. Colleagues that are involved at the FA (one is Chairman of a 500+ team league and U13 coach, one is Chairman of the Mini-Soccer section of his league and a club secretary, one is coach of his son’s U11 team etc) – all involved in the game, we don’t just sit in an ivory tower!
    I agree about a youth representative on local CFA Councils and Kent are leading the way nationally – they have a Youth Council set up, run and organised by young people, and that person will have a vote on the main CFA Council. Excellent step forward.

    Steve Lowe – thanks for the comment, the place we started in terms of the proposals was with the children, asking them what they want from their game. They are at the heart of the process.

    Thanks for taking the time to all comment, whether positive or negative, you agree or not, the points are noted and listened to.

    Enjoy your end of season celebrations and tournaments you might be entering!

    Best wishes.

  44. Phil Biggs on May 22, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    I would suggest that the relative age ‘effect’ would be lessened (although it would still carry some effect) if we changed the way we teach our youngest players to play the game. Unfortunately England has a tradition of developing and favouring Physical attributes. If we change that focus and begin to teach ‘brain before brawn’, then the younger players in a group might stand a better chance of competing on and equall footing. Its not all about who can run faster, jump higher, or be stronger in a challenge. This is radical i know (please excuse the sarcasm) but we could teach our youngsters ‘spacial awareness’, ‘movement and timing’, ‘possession of the ball is as precious as scoring a goal’. I just think that there are some other more obvious and productive methods of addressing the relative age issue. I don’t really see that tinkering with the cut-off point will have any really affect at all.

  45. danny murphy on May 22, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    I have been in junior football for just twelve years in that time I learnt quit a lot about the game at grass roots, I have been in child care a lot longer and I have a good idea what children want, and I would like to know how the people at the top seem to have so little knowlegde at what goes on, its bad enough now trying to get all kids on the field for a game, if you start cutting playing numbers down this will leave a lot of children not playing at all, then what will they do?, ninety % teams are run by parents or grandparents, they dip into there pockets for kits and equipment, were is the F A, COUNCILS ARE SELLING OFF PLAYING FIELDS TO MAKE MONEY, no thought for the kids, parks closing only to be replaced by housing, where is the F A? THOSE WHO COME UP WITH THESE IDEAS SHOULD TALK TO PEOPLE WHO are on the fields at all hours, there the ones that matter, I have never been approached by them or asked for my views has anybody out there been consulted with regarding the changes, not in our neck of the woods

  46. Martin on May 23, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Salesman no, Politician yes, thats why you will never get a straight answer!

  47. Daniel Skinner on May 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Please could you help or advise, me and a good friend are coaching a new under 10’s football team for the upcoming season, we are looking for a month session plan to help us progress our players, different drills and things to work, please could you help

  48. billy nglis on May 23, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    9 v 9 we have chased this in scotland for years now,if this gets goahead down south whats the bet sfa bring it on board as we have said 4s 7s 11s was wrong and to
    spread out,5 v 5 and 9 v 9 perfect

  49. Stuart Dudley on May 24, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Some terrible comments on here that typify the reason this country is behind all other major football countries. Calls for pro clubs to stop poaching young players, then in the next sentence, pro clubs should do more development work in their communities!
    More pro clubs should use better coaches at younger age groups and have more players exposed to better coaching, not just bigger, faster, stronger – keep the parents and club coaches out of the equation, unless you can get them to implement an ethos, a way of playing that ignores the mentality that only winning is success and developing players skill, awarenss and confidence is much more important. Most young players can’t perform a skill in a match, because they’re too scared to lose the ball and getting yelled at! Too many egos take up coaching youngsters.
    Coaching courses need to be shorter, cheaper and manadatory, as do CRB checks.
    Parents should be kept away from the pitch side and keep quiet to allow the young players to hear themselves and their coach only.
    Coaches should only be allowed to stand in one area, not chase the game up and down the pitch, trying to remote control the actions of his players.
    At an under 7 tournament last year, one coach ran onto the pitch to line up a wall for a freekick against his team!
    Up until under 14’s no keeper should be allowed to boot the ball out from their hands, pass it short get it back, make space, play the game, not the result, learn the skills, not worry about failure to win.
    We’re way, way behind, even the U.S was implementing player development with smaller sided games over 15 years ago. They have a great structure, but unfortunately the most talented kids get missed and take up other sports where they can earn more money and get scholarships as “soccer” costs more to play over there.
    Bottom line is the parents that become coaches for the wrong reasons are the problem, not the FA. My Message is – Forget about winning, put the players first and build their skills and confidence, not just hoof ball and hope the other team make a mistake in front of their own goal so you get to score! It’s kids footy, not the World Cup Final, grow up!!!!

  50. Matt J on May 25, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Totally agree with Stuart’s comments below. Probably the most sensible I’ve read on this subject.

    We need to build confidence in our kids and make them brave enough to try things out in game situations. The problem we have (as Stuart stated) is that the kids are scared stiff to make a mistake. We need to make them unafraid of losing. We do this by not berrating them everytime they do something wrong that turns into a goal for the opposition.

    We need to focus on competitiveness but not, I repeat not winning at all costs!!

    After all, whats more important, developing kids into better players and making football enjoyable or having a crappy plastic trophy on the mantlepiece?

  51. Marc T on May 28, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Stuart, I could not agree more with your comments.. My son is just heading into the U9 category and we have moved him from the club he was at due to the “politics”, coaches berating kids for making mistakes, for trying to make it all about winning, then excluding a group of boys because “they were not good enough”. I find this attitude disgusting and unacceptable in this day and age and I hope the FA or local County FA have some power to take some action. My son was told he had no chance of being selected for the team he had played for, for 2 years because someone had heard that he had been to the trials of two other clubs in the previous 2 weeks.. Part of the reason for looking at alternate clubs was my difficulty getting him to training due to work commitments, so we looked at clubs who train on a Saturday… for his current club to hold that against an 8 year old boy is wrong.. The Herts FA will have a full report on this sorry incident in the next few days….

  52. Alan Willis on May 28, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Sadly, the win at all costs mentality is not just down to the would-be Mourinhos. Parents also have such a big influence over the footballing dreams of their kids.
    At a recent u14 Cup final, a group of parents were asked if they would like to buy a cup final programme (just£1 each). They replied, ‘Only if we win’.
    Truly staggering. What hope do their children have in football and also, in life?

  53. Zygmund on July 2, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Lets look at this situation in another way.Coaching certificates are ok but i fear that they teach more about paperwork than football.There are many older more experienced coaches who cut themselves adrift from the FA because of the way they are treated,why not pool these guys and have them pass on their experiences to younger coaches.I have for many years been teaching boys to play three aside with the futball de salao balls.No goalkeepers and the game starts from a ball being played wide.games consist, as they progress of playing touch football with more players but still no goals just passes to make points.Players learn so much more about pass and movement this way and you can adjust pitch sizes to suite.

  54. Dominion on July 14, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Show me how to write football proposal to schools and to convince principal

  55. Mikey on July 15, 2012 at 5:36 am


    I have read this article and thought I would weigh in with my own thoughts having been through the current youth system as it is. I had trials with Liverpool and Chelsea before signing for a lower league club, and played in the quarter final of the Youth Cup at Anfield. I’d like to discuss the ‘Relative age effect’.

    I am an August birthday, the 17th to be precise, and I cannot emphasise enough how much of a hindrance it was throughout my career. In my age group I was always a handy player and deemed ‘good enough’ (at Academy level not locally) however in the age group below I was quite noticeably faster, stronger even taller relatively speaking and was probably the best player. It dawned on me quite early how important something as negligible as your birthday was in ‘making it’.

    Some coaches seemed to consider it a factor and others dismissed it out of hand. I am also inclined to agree with the article where it is not about the DOB as such but more the physical maturity of young players.

    Ultimately, I don’t know how much of an effect it had on my development as I grew up getting a taste of both environments but I firmly believe it is a problem that needs to be addressed. Even now, I think September/October birthdays will be signed to Academies whilst there will be better ‘pound-for-pound’ July/August birthdays sat at home unattached.

  56. Jenny on April 10, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Does anyone know whether the relative age effect is still going ahead?


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