Two young England stars have kicked off a new project to get more teenagers playing football.
PFA Young Player of the Year Kyle Walker and England Women’s striker Ellen White launched the new initiative from the FA and Vauxhall Motors aimed at tackling the dropout of footballers in the 14-17 age group.
The England players visited the Vauxhall Recreation Centre in Luton to kick start The FA Vauxhall Youth programme, renamed to the more youthful Football Mash Up.
The initiative follows an extensive study by HPI, commissioned by The FA and England Team Sponsor and FA Youth Partner Vauxhall Motors, to determine the factors affecting dropout within this age group.
The Football Mash Up sessions aim to tackle these issues head on by offering a recreational form of football in after-school clubs, played in quality small-sided facilities and run by specialist FA Vauxhall Youth officers.
Having taken part in a session with a group of young players, England and Tottenham defender Walker said: “I really enjoyed the Football Mash Up sessions this afternoon. It is a fantastic programme aimed at keeping players in the game.
“No matter what level you reach there is nothing better than having a game of football with your mates and the Football Mash Up programme gives teenagers the opportunity to take control and play on their terms.”
Arsenal and England Striker Ellen White was also supportive of the programme. “It is great to see The FA and Vauxhall launching Football Mash Up," the 22-year old said.
"Teenagers need a fun and friendly environment to play after school with their friends and the sessions that we took part in today are really inclusive, which means boys and girls can play whatever their ability may be and I think this will really make a difference.”
The FA and Vauxhall - helped by £100,000 of Sport England funding - have appointed eight full-time specialist officers with a target of facilitating Football Mash Up sessions for over 50,000 teenage footballers throughout the year.
14-17 year-olds can sign up for a ten week block of sessions, which will cater for all abilities and fitness levels. It is hoped that these sessions will inspire teenagers to get back into affiliated football in either small-sided or 11 v 11 formats.
The coaches will also help support teenage football in schools and clubs, helping to re-instil young people’s affection for playing the game and deliver high quality training.
Jonathan Hall, Director of Football Services at the FA, hopes the initiative will help stem the tide of youngsters leaving the game in their teenage years.
“The FA Vauxhall Youth Football Mash Up programme will really help us tackle the issues that are currently affecting the 14-17 age range,” he said.
“We really believe the programme will open up football to a whole new audience of teenagers, whatever their ability or fitness level. We hope this is the first step in getting those that are disengaged back into affiliated football.”