Football Association plans for an overhaul of the youth football system have been overwhelmingly backed by FA shareholders.
Eighty-seven percent of shareholders voted in favour of youth development proposals, which include a new player pathway – including new 5v5 and 9v9 formats – and a child-friendly approach to competition up to under 11s.
The proposals had required 75% of the shareholder vote - which took place at the FA's AGM at Wembley today - and will now be phased in from the youngest age groups from the start of the 2013/14 season.
Nick Levett, FA National Development Manager for youth football and the man behind the proposals, said: “After 138 roadshows nationwide it was fantastic to get the endorsement of the majority of the grassroots football community.
“These changes are a massive step forward for the future of children’s football in this country.”
The changes represent the biggest overhaul of youth football since the introduction of mini soccer in 1999.
The new player pathway - which features a mandatory new 5v5 format for under 7s and U8s and a new 9v9 format for U11s and U12s - will allow children to pay on appropriate size pitches and with appropriate size goals, with the aim of providing more touches of the ball as kids learn the game.
For the first time ever children will only begin to play on full size adult pitches at under 13s level, whilst the traditional league table season will be scrapped for all teams up to under 11s.
In its place will be replaced three mini-seasons within a season, each of which will feature development matches or friendlies followed by a ‘trophy event’, the length of which will increase as children get older.
The FA hopes that this gradual introduction of 'competitive' football will allow the children greater freedom to learn the game free from external adult-driven pressure for results.
The decision represents a reward for two and a half years of work by Levett and his team, featuring extensive research and a nationwide consultation procedure, including over 125 events and engaging over 4,000 parents and coaches.
For more details on the changes to youth football and an interview with Nick Levett, make sure you're signed up to May's edition of The Clubhouse - out this week.