FA proposals for youth football get go-ahead

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.

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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 May 28, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Great! now all we need to do is stop pro clubs poaching players from grass-roots so the kids can just be allowed to play and develop there alongside playing for their school team ( I’m not against them going to pro clubs for extra coaching and maybe a tournament out of the grass roots season for that age group ) and everyone will be happy. Won’t they?

  2. Kevan Locke on May 28, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    This is fantastic news that this new format is to be implemented. It is the way forward for grass roots football. The only thing that might fail is if the local leagues try to keep results for under 11’s.

  3. Brian on May 28, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    What a complete balls up, which country came up with this idea 5 years ago ?? Same old story with the FA, always behind everyone else, by the time they catch up every one else has moved onto something else. Think my son will have to take up rugby or cricket !!

  4. William Dalziel on May 28, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    SO WHY THE HELL ARE THE SFA NOT FOLLOWING SUIT AND STILL FORCING SCOTTISH KIDS TO PLAY 7 A SIDE AT THE AGE OF 12 SURELY THE NATURAL PROGRESSION IN FOOTBALL IS 5s, 7s, 9s and then 11s. Just goes to show how blind and ignorant the Hampden Ivory Tower Crew are. WAKE UP SCOTLAND ……..USA 5 – 1 SCOTLAND I rest my case.

  5. Niall on May 28, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    William, the SFA have just recently changed and were first to take action before the FA we have went with small sided games fun fours and then 7s equals more
    Touches of the ball and pressure free. No need for 9v9 perfectly good transition from 4-7-11s current Scotland squad is obviously not going to be showing signs of these changes as it will be 10 yrs till we see the benefits

  6. stuart locke on May 28, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    so there is still a trophy to win so whats the diferance.its the coaches job to teach the kids how to play and enjoy football.we all should be fa level 1 coaches, the instuctor said its more important that the kids enjoy playing football than it is to win.if the coach is not doing this thats where the changes need to be made.i tell my kids that i am doing this job to make you the best player that you can be, not to be the best team and try to win everything.we all like winning more than losing thats human nature.the most important thing is that the kids are not affraid to lose because of pushie parents or a we must win coach.

  7. AndyG on May 28, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    9 v 9 great news…Are they still playing 20 mins each half?

  8. John Williams on May 28, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Small sided games have been around for a long time now and although they have been a great step forward the root cause is not being addressed!
    A proper coaching model and the quality of the coaching is the major problem.
    In my recent experience the quality of coaching when the kids first start at a club and then go into an age group is inadequate with willing dads (a lot who have never played football before) being asked to become coaches so that they become managers of an age group team at a later date.
    More emphasis should be put into skills based models like the Will Coerver method which has a proven track record in Europe, with coaches attending their Youth Diploma Course.

  9. msb03 on May 28, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    I think it’s great news this got voted for. It’s not perfect but should evolve over the next few years. Now we have to put in place a structure to bring on the talented players rather than leave them at the mercy of the professional clubs production line academies who just pinch them from the grassroots clubs and cast them aside a season later when they “don’t make the grade”

  10. Mike on May 28, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    First post – Darryll Walker says:
    “Great! now all we need to do is stop pro clubs poaching players from grass-roots so the kids can just be allowed to play and develop…”

    On the contrary, I would see a player joining a professional club as recognition (in a small or large way) of the grassroots club that I represent. Rather than it being a threat, it should be seen as a compliment first and a challenge second to continue to develop players to take the place of any of those taken on by professional clubs.

    Using the terminology of pro clubs ‘poaching players’ only goes to cement the assumption that some grassroots coaches and managers focus is on winning first and development of people and footballers a distant second. Think about why you are concerned about pro clubs ‘poaching players’, is it because it will have an effect on your teams position in a Youth League table?

    These boys are not under the ownership of grassroots clubs (or professional clubs) and ultimately it is the boys and parents of them to make the decision about joining a pro club. I for one would not want to deny them that opportunity, regardless of how long that opportunity lasts.

  11. john hartley on May 28, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    This is a change for the good for childrens football and about time too, all levels of talent will benefit, we now need to re-educate some of the coaches and parents to stop them being to pushy. Let the game teach the child!

  12. g larini on May 29, 2012 at 12:21 am

    as i said before, good idea but i am not convinced we will have more kids playing. An example is we at the moment play 2 six a side teams so we have a squad of 14 players who play 2 matches on a sunday between them now that will become 1 team as we cannot get the extra players to come so we will have to release them or they stay and play less football. This will again happen when they reach 9 a side,s and again at 11 a side. All kids would like to win matches, why else do they play and watch football. We alreaady have the best youngsters go to Academys . Once kids are not competivetive there won t be no champions in sport.

  13. Paul Hawkins on May 29, 2012 at 7:55 am

    Some good bits some bad, I still cant help thinking this is all about money for the FA and Academies, by reducing team numbers 5v5 clubs will probably enter a second side which will cost each club more money to affliate to that league and more Level 1 coaches will be needed again more extra cost.The Academies in our area are only looking at players joining them for Financial gain rather than scouting the better players which can not afford the ridicilous outlay these clubs ask for, the players are out their.I can not help thinking the world is going crazy what next scrap exams at school !!!!

  14. Darryll Walker on May 29, 2012 at 9:15 am

    In response to Mike, I must clarify a point, my comment on “poaching players” refers to pro-clubs taking players mid-season which can greatly upset the balance of any team – it has happened to me when a pro-club came along and decided they wanted my keeper and from being in second place with 5 games to go my team ended up fourth in the league, so whereas I have no problem with players going to pro-clubs I think that there needs to be a rethink on the issue of when this happens and I think it should take place in the off-season so as not to affect a team during their season. I’m proud to say I’ve had players join several pro clubs and I would never stop them from doing so but the timing can be very detremental to grass roots clubs. Regards your comment on ownership of a player, my undrestanding is that once a player signs for a pro club, they sign a one year deal that, should they or the club wish to be releassed from, requires a written notice period of one month. I don’t know if this is still true? Overall I think the proposals are great news – however did anyone else see the report on Sky Sports with Stewart Robson?? He said that thses changes only go so far and that the REAL problem lies with the coaching of the players not the format in which they play. What do people think of that? Thanks – if you got this far – for taking the time to read this!

  15. Mark C on May 29, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Basically it’s a good idea and should improve a lot of skills touches pass n move etc. The taking leagues out of it for the younger ones is also good in my opionion too.
    My questions here are the FA going to fund the clubs to buy new sized goals etc as many clubs such as ours don’t have a lot of cash. Also some teams/ players may lose out as its going to need more coaches? I currently have 12 kids in my under 9s surly on a Saturday when I now have split these into 2 teams of 6 and no doubt at different venues im going to need someone to run the other team? The danger here is some coaches may not get this help and just pick their best 7 leaving te rest out? as its hard enough running 1 team never mind 2!!!

  16. Tony Stuart on May 29, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Having coached a team last season playing the 9 a side format I feel very strongly that it should be implemented right up to U13’s, the whole team gets more touches more involvement no less competetive and it mean the players have more room the express themselves, one issue is the facilities, but we played a couple of matches where a 11 a side pitch was reduced in size using cones, not perfect but workable if both coaches see the benefits, my company Wessex Sports is trying the help by selling Samba 9 a side match goals for £270 a pair. honestly try 9 a side it really works

  17. Matt J on May 29, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Mike stated

    “I would see a player joining a professional club as recognition (in a small or large way) of the grassroots club that I represent. Rather than it being a threat, it should be seen as a compliment ”

    I totally agree with this. In my opinion its the win at all costs managers who only care about winning plastic trophies who don’t like to see their best players move on. I know some academies get a bad rap but most are in a stronger position to develop kids into better players.

    I like these new rules around players per game, by age group. Long over due. Of course its going to take time to bed in and it probably won’t be a smooth transition, but I really think, as a nation we’ll reap the benefits in the next 5 to 10 years. I Also truely believe that coaching attitudes are a beginning to change. From the kids football I see there is a lot more focus on skills and passing rather than get the big kids to kick it long to the fast kids.

  18. Paul Hawkins on May 29, 2012 at 11:48 am

    It makes sense for 9v9 to continue at U12s as moving to the Full size goals always gave a disadvantage to the keeper being so short when shots hit above him so remaining with 3/4 size goals makes it a level playing field for both keeper versus striker and a natural progression to full size pitches a year after.

  19. Kevin Williams on May 29, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    I’m not totally convinced by some of these changes, but certainly agree compulsory 5 a side for the youngest ages, for all of the reasons stated previously. As for 9 v 9 on small pitches and smaller goals, no problem with the concept, but there is a shortage of “small” pitches, a lot of towns/districts don’t have that much spare space to put down additional pitches, open age will still take priority over council decisions on pitches (income). There will be a cost involved, new smaller goals at 9 v 9, maybe additional coaches, and more affiliation fees to the FA. What about referees? Young junior referees rely on 11 v 11 at under 11 and 12 to get their games in to qualify; what are the plans for that? As a previous coach from under 8 through to under 15 our aim was always to make the players the best they could be, any ability was welcome, winning trophies on the way helps, but the dream was always to get players to a decent club to carry on, be that a pro club or a semi pro. To some degree we achieved that, pushy parents do get in the way!

  20. Paul Allsopp on May 29, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    In principle these changes are long over due we are lagging behind Europe in kids football on many levels however some points .

    1. Pitches – Holland and Spain have pitches every block we are still very reliant on council facilities which have improved – where is the FA money for our facilities ..

    2. Coaching – this is a real disrespectful view held by some ex pros and or pundits – that grass roots coaching is poor , utter rot , we the coaches get very little support from FA or the leagues who then moan about home grown players coming through – The amount of time effort , transport , money , social support that most managers put in is tremendous , and most managers i know have decent quality teams
    We have had several kids go to the local academies and we are hoping those kids make it

    3. Funding – if you want to improve coaching that costs MONEY some of the vast sums paid to players at the higher levels would be more than welcome to fund improved coaching for coaches but i cant here a stampeded on that one

  21. Saul Peltier on May 29, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    At last a change for the better this is the way forward for grass roots football. Smaller numbers mean more touches on the ball whic improves enjoyment and technical ability. Being an u8’s coach and a secondary school PE teacher I see the kids starting school in year 7 (u12) moving to a full size pith and full size goals looking completely lost. Goal keepers have no chance! any shot near the top corner is bound to be a goal no matter how talented you are. This once again mean the large stronger kids will stand out and the smaller technical players (probably born in the months may- August) once again are missed.

  22. Martin on May 29, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    The FA Youth Review Proposals were passed at yesterday’s FA AGM. Although BCFA supports the principles it decided to vote against the proposal in its present format as it does not believe that everyone understands the effect that they will… have. BCFA are concerned that no results will be permitted to be displayed up to the U11 age group, the two year age banding restrictions still apply despite the FA suggesting otherwise, funding for goalposts has not yet been finalised and therefore the County FA will continue to lobby to make changes ahead of the new changes from 2013
    Posted by Birmingham County FA on their Facebook page and they will have had far more info then most of you have. Typical FA farce.

  23. Will Hampshire on May 30, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Hi will play in the Halton league we have under 9’s for next season is the ball still size 3 is it still 7v7 aside any help pls

  24. TJ on May 30, 2012 at 10:46 am

    The SSG proposals are a step in the right direct but I think we have to stop calling people from grassroots football with FA level 1 qualifications “coaches” because they’re not.

    The work these people do is commendable, they put a lot of in hard work running teams in addition to their normal daily lives. If the FA are serious about improving the standards of English football then they need to increase the numbers of proper UEFA “B” coaches working at grassroots level.

    Our local league has played a full season of 5v5 SSG and now you see people encouraging the goalkeeper to shoot because the pitch is smaller and there is a line on the pitch that is supposed to give the team time to play out from the keeper but instead the “coach” uses this area so the keeper/defender and take an unopposed shot.

    Whilst we have inappropriate un-qualified adults involved in the grassroots game the emphasis will always be about winning regardless of the format.

  25. dave b on May 30, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    good point i have 12 in my u7s we played 7v7 .so now its 5v5, 5 play and i have 7 subs how can that be better if i can’t get a coach to run a second team then my only option would be to let some of those kids go ?? 5v5 sounds like a good idea to start with but the reality is kids will miss out FACT!!!!!!!!

  26. chris kenny on May 30, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    This is the best thing to happen in youth football for years. Those of you who question this really need to study the facts. This is not some short term fix but a carefully researched development based on evidence. If you can’t see the benefit of this then you should ask yourself why you are involved in grass roots football at all. And by the way, those of you who said you will have to lose players are missing the point. if you have 9 then play two games a 5v5 and a 4v4 no goalie. It doesnt matter nobody is collecting results. Iam an u7 coach by the way.

  27. David Bessell on May 30, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    Having just moved back to Cornwall from Australia where I have been living for the past 5 years, I find the youth set-up certainly where I now live in Cornwall very disappointing.

    My son has just turned 6 and has been playing small sided football since before he was 5.

    The setup in Australia is incredible with the emphasis solely on the kids and ensuring they enjoy playing. The rules are very few, no goalies, no throw ins, no corners, small goals, 4v4. This just allow the kids to concentrate on playing football and enjoying it. As they get older, the pitches get bigger, the number in the teams increase and the more rules are introduced.

    Every Saturday, all teams from all ages play against each other. Although no league tables are published, teams are graded several times during the season to ensure they are playing like skilled teams to get the maximum enjoyment for the kids.

    The Australian FA have started ‘Grassroots’ coaching and encourage anyone wanting to take a leadership role in coaching or managing a kids team to enrol on the FREE training courses provided by the FA.

    Although I welcome these changes in the UK, has it really taken the FA 2 ½ years to come up with a model in place in Australia for the past 10 years?

  28. stuart locke on May 31, 2012 at 12:48 am

    since my last coment i have looked into the changes a bit more and i agree that 5v5 for u7s u8s is a good idea. i am u11s manager in the north devon youth league we played 9v9 with offside and we will do the same next year u12s.then u13s will be 11v11.we play 2 games on match days the second game is a frendly which can be as long as first game depending on numbers of players.we will not play a second game when it is 11v11.7v7 for u9s u10s with no off side is what we do in are league, with 2 games on match days the second game a frendly.this has worked very well in my opinion,since i took over at the end of u9s season just over 2 years ago. i think the league table is a good thing from u9s and upwards.what is a trophy event at the end off the season, this is what one off the changes is. the best team will probably win this event, just like the best team will probably win the league. where can i read the full imformation on these changes.

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