A "massive step forward" for youth football

The Football Association has given the go-ahead to the biggest overhaul of youth football in over a decade.

At their AGM on Monday, FA shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favour of plans designed to structure youth football around the most important people involved – the children.

The youth development plans – aimed at giving kids more touches of the ball and making the game more fun – represent the biggest change to youth football since the introduction of mini soccer in 1999. Many believe they go way beyond that.

An 87% vote in favour of the plans means that kids won’t play 11-a-side football until the under 13s age group, while under 7s and under 8s will play 5-a-side and under 11s and 12s will play 9-a-side, all on age-appropriate size pitches.

The traditional league table season will be replaced by shorter periods of competition, as the FA try to get away from the ‘win-at-all-costs’ mentality that blights some sections of the youth game.

“These changes are a massive step forward for the future of children’s football in this country,” said Nick Levett, the FA’s national development manager for youth football, who has overseen the development of the proposals in a two-year project that has involved clubs, leagues and County FAs the length and breadth of the country.

Since the news of changes – outlined in full here – broke on Monday, Levett has been doing the rounds with national sports TV and radio stations, but he also took time to catch up with Club Website and talk us through what the plans mean for our members.

Revised player pathway

Most people in the grassroots community recognise that playing football with age-appropriate team, pitch and ball sizes makes sense for children learning the game, so this first element of the planned changes has been largely welcomed.

How the new 9v9 pitches could be marked out on an existing 11-a-side pitch

The new 9v9 format – mandatory for under 11s and 12s by the 2014/15 season – has proved so popular, says Levett, that leagues aren’t waiting to get started.

“I think under 11s 9v9 will be more popular at the start of this coming season than 11 v 11,” Levett told Club Website.

“We’ve hit that natural tipping point. Clubs are voting with their feet to find that format of football and leagues are seeing it’s the right thing to do for kids playing the game.”

“There are going to be a number of leagues playing 5v5 at under 7s as well. There are loads that are going forwards and it’s not because we’ve made it mandatory. It’s because they’ve realised it’s the right thing to do.”

Some people have expressed concerns about forcing under 8s or under 12s teams back a level for the 2013/14 season, but this will not be happening.

As Levett points out, the new formats will “be phased in because it doesn’t make any sense for the under 12s playing 11v11 the season before then going back to playing 9v9.”

The major concern regarding the new formats of the game regards facilities, in particular where people will find funding to pay for the new 9v9 goalposts.

“Facilities are the biggest challenge, absolutely,” says Levett. “We had a similar thing 12 or 13 years ago when mini-soccer got introduced and people said it wouldn’t work because we didn’t have pitches or goalposts.

“That proved that people with a fairly positive attitude can make it happen. There’s over £1m being ring-fenced by the Football Foundation to go towards funding of goalposts, storage, whatever they might need to support the implementation of 9v9.”

Clubs and leagues are encouraged to make use of 3G pitches or school pitches wherever possible – try approaching the school through a parent rather than the club – whilst Levett believes that some budgetary priorities might alneed to re-evaluated.

“I’ve spoken to a league that said they had cancelled their end-of-season presentation night where they spent £20,000 a year on trophies and medals and spent £1,600 on room hire for that night.

“They also saved over £10,000 by putting their handbook online. So there’s 32 grand that they’ve saved and they’ve put some funding towards supporting 9v9 goalposts.

“It’s really about people looking at where they spend money and where they can prioritise if they need to. There’s lots of examples there.”

“But make sure you speak to your County FA Development Manager, whose job it is to help you with those kind of things. They are all doing the relationship building with Local Authorities now, in what we know is a difficult time economically.

“We know it’s a challenge, but there is support there and it’s a short-term challenge. This is about the next 10 to 15 years of youth football.”

Child-friendly competition

The second element of the plans – to replace the traditional league table season with a more child-friendly approach to competition up to under 11s – has caused more of a stir.

The term ‘non-competitive’ has been latched onto by some adults who, once they hear that league tables will be scrapped, point out that the country is going soft and before we know it kids won’t know what winning and losing is all about.

Levett points out that, on the contrary, competition is still integral to football at all ages. The challenge is trying to find a format of competition that works for children.

“The plan will be to build and phase-in competition for young people, as opposed to pushing them down this over-competitive route at a young age. It is a very adult model and we can’t find any research that supports the benefits of it.

“We want to find a competitive format of the game that still has winning and losing at the heart of it, because it is a game.

“It’s my team versus your team and we’re going to try and beat you, that’s the nature of the game.”

The problems start, says Levett, when we try imposing a model that sees children competing every week for three points to finish above a team that they might not even see for another eight months.

“For an eight year old playing at under 9s, that’s [almost] 10 percent of your life that the competition is going to go on for. 10 percent of most league administrators lives is about six and half years and you wouldn’t dream of playing in a competition that long, but that’s what we do to the kids!”

Replacing this will be a new structure where the season is split into thirds, with each third to feature developmental matches and a trophy event that will increase in duration as the children get older.

The new approach will even introduce some competitive football to under 7s and under 8s leagues, which currently play friendly matches only.

“I feel we need to add some format of competition in there [for these age groups] as it’s part of the game,” says Levett, “so if leagues want to organise two or three trophy events where you play for a little cup, running over a two week block, two or three times a season, that’s brilliant. No problem at all.’

“But we have to manage the environment, so that parents and coaches don’t get too over-excited, because we know it’s an emotional game and sometimes people get carried away.”

The new approach to competition will begin in the 2013/14 season for under 7s, 8s and 9s. Then, as those under 9s get older, they will stay within the new structure which moves up with them to under 10s in 2014/15 and under 11s in 2015/16.

As the kids get older, the level of competition will increase. The two-week trophy events at under 7s and under 8s will be doubled in length to four weeks for under 9s and 10s, while under 11s will have three six-week blocks of competition.

This equates to 18 weeks of competitive football out of a 26 week season, exposing as a red herring the oft-used term “non-competitive”.

“I hope that once people see the progression here, that they can actually see it is competition,” says Levett.

“It’s learning to win and lose in an appropriate way for your age. I’ve said all the way through, it’s child-friendly football. We’ve got to be creative with competition to move youth football forward.”

Leagues will still have a vital role to play throughout the process by organising both trophy events and developmental matches, which can be used to gauge the standard of teams to help seed trophy events, ensuring a more level playing field for all concerned.

As Levett points out: “It’s making the game more competitive for more kids. There is no such thing as non-competitive football, because every match in football is competition.

“But let’s understand that these are kids. It’s kid’s football. This isn’t the World Cup.”

So what happens next?

With a 15 month lead-in to the implementation of the new changes, Levett believes there is time to iron out any problems that clubs or leagues may face. He encourages people to contact their County FA as a first port of call to address any concerns they may have.

The FA will also publish guidance booklets to support clubs and leagues. There will be a booklet for each age bracket and game format – e.g. 5v5 for u7s and u8s – containing all clubs need to know about that format of the game, from ethos and background to rules and pitch markings.

A similar booklet is being produced for leagues that covers all formats of the game and how to organise competitions at each age group.

Video clips of one of Nick’s 136 presentations on the ‘Your Kids Your Say’ roadshow will also be made available online to help explain the background to the changes.

As always, Club Website will keep you up to date with all developments as we move towards this brave new world of youth football in 2013/14, so stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

Dan Pope, Club Website editor

Have your say on the upcoming changes to youth football

Now that the FA’s proposals have become confirmed plans, how do you feel about the future of youth football? How will it affect your team? Do you see the short-term benefits for kids and the long-term benefits for the game? Or are you concerned about how it will work in practice? Have your say in our comments section below.

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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. Sean Trafford on May 31, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    I am very much behind bringing football to the kids, i having been coaching for 12 years now. The one problem I can see that will be encountered, and i hope there is contigancy for this, is before there was at least 14 players in a team on Sunday morning. Now there is going to be children turned away as there is no longer room and the best will flourish whilst the children that need coaching and game time won’t have the chance.
    One of the biggest struggles is to find coaches and parents to help run these teams. If you manage to split your current team in 2 then you have to find coaches etc to cover both teams, and splitting friends up.
    Also i know space is a problem for most, we are a village club currently with 3 youth teams and three mens, we would not have room for all the different age groups if we are splitting them down from what we have now.
    i hope there are answers as my philosphy has always been not to turn anyone away, and rotate the squad whilst maintaining a strong core.
    Football at this age should be enjoyed with friends, and now we are splitting friends up to play for different teams and there will be outcasts, as much as we try to combat this.
    Any advice welcome.

  2. Mike Chaloner on May 31, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    I can see both positives and negatives with the move, looking at sean trafford’s points re less players getting pitch time, I beleive a remedy to this would be to split your squad into 2 teams and play 2 games only needing 1 manager for both, this would mean more not less players getting pitch time ie. at the minute a 7 aside squad on average has 10 players meaning 7 on the pitch with 3 subs, going to 5 aside would mean 5 on the pitch and 5 subs!!. If you increase the squad to 14 players and play 2 games one after the other this would mean 10 players on the pitch and 4 subs so more playing each game and 1 less sub.

  3. Chris Horton on May 31, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    In answer to the questions possed by Sean I would suggest he considers what happened when mini soccer was introduced. It worked and was an improvement.

    Where there is a will, there is a way. If we had things right, there would be no need to change. If we had 11 aside teams at Under 7 upwards then following Seans concerns, he would only need one coach etc. Of course that is ridiculous as it is to carry on as we have been.

    These changes are absolutely right and I for one can’t wait for them to be implemented and see the results. Most sports have adapted their adult game to a kids version.

    All English football is doing is actually catching up with other sports and the rest of the football world.

  4. Sam Roberts on May 31, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Hi, fab idea, it is about time the system was adapted for kids in this way. There is too much stress, shouting agreesively from sidelines and moaning about poor players! They are children who want to have a go and learn through playing the game. Give them all a go, change the focus with the new structure and instil a better quality of player.

  5. Peter Hucker on June 1, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Probably the worst set of ideas ever to be introduced. totally impractical (two week cup comps the same team will end up with a stack full of trophies by the end of the season and it will teach the developing teams that they will not win anything five or six times instead of once.
    Pitches are unworkable in our u8 league there were 18 7 a side teams with squads of 10. thats now 30 teams playing 5 a side we didn’t have enough pitches or referees, with 7 a side. Make the pitches smaller the ball is never on the pitch great if you want to spend all your time taking throw ins.

  6. John Wilson on June 1, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I just wonder about the FA. I created mini soccer and the first goal in a bag and took it to the FA in 1989.the concept was never intended to be used in a league format from the outset. The FA wanted to control the concept and in my opinion completely destroyed it and created the parent culture we have today at matches. It is very difficult to control the game is about passion. The original concept was to educate the parents ,involve them and work through a local franchisee rather than through the county FA league structure. Robin Russell and Charles Hughes were the Nick Levett of the day…they did not listen and I really wonder if the FA have really changed. They were warned about the explosion of girls football the increased volume of players the problems of parents if they were in teams one against another but the advice was ignored. The smaller footballs, goals and pitches at least helped and this enabled more pitches to be set up in the available grassed areas around the UK. My own view is that they are taking it to the extreme and I see no reason why 11 v 11 can not start at the age when children move to secondary education. Two missing subs (money) each week can not help club funds. I gave up on the FA some years ago now…. but I have the utmost respect for the dedicated parents and officials who actually run Junior football. My own personal feelings are that I think the millions of pounds spent on this survey would have been better spent on leveling and draining playing surfaces around the UK to give kids a decent surface to play on. I have been amazed at some of the pitches with weed killer lines as no one (not all I have seen some clubs take great care about the pitches) seems to be bothered to take the time to do it right. These ruts in my opinion are dangerous for children’s football. I dread to think if the new multi pitch lines are done like this!
    I will look on with interest at this generation of football experts as i move towards retirement and see what will transpires with this new initiative…
    May be we need to send all our kids to the back streets of Argentina or Brazil where the kids develop in a natural way from observation and imitation….. Good luck to you all ..may be it is right we will soon see….Junior clubs will always be required to follow the FA decisions good or bad
    The next few years will be interesting

  7. Martin on June 1, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    How many of the FA shareholders who voted these rediculous proposals in, have or have ever had anything to do with grassroots youth football? Some County FA’s voted against the proposals because they know that the majority are unworkable. The FA have a rediculous voting system where some voters have a different number of votes to others which is how they get the 87% stats. There are no Youth League representitives on the voting list but numerous from senior leagues, why is that I wonder. £1million put aside for goal posts, storage etc for 9 v 9, how much equipment will that provide. The money will be allocated to the FA’s Community Clubs so all you small clubs and teams better start saving up. All you people who are saying just form 2 teams for the 5 v 5 have never run teams or clubs. Volunteer coaches/managers are getting harder to find every year. What have the FA done to help this, increased the prices of their mandatory courses and CRB checks thats what. Nick Levett and the rest of his FA pals should hang their heads in shame

  8. Ray Dixon on June 2, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Why is there a need for Substitutes in non competitive football. Surely 5 on the pitch should play the whole game – not have littlies standing around hoping to get a few minutes.
    No substitutes til under age 12 I say!

  9. Roger on June 2, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Why don’t we just go the whole hog and remove the goals from the pitch? after all conceding goals is bad for the morale of the weaker teams! and “They are all winners” Absolute Lunacy from the wishy washy powers that be! Killing the drive and importance of being competitive and the healthy desire to WIN!

  10. Billy on June 2, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Clubs kicking against a change in the makeup of the game for juniors is finally going away. Our league has voted to start 9v9 next season which means the smaller kids who have been ignored by the ‘better’ clubs won’t have the advantage of their ‘bigger kids’ kicking the ball further on full size pitches. Our 4’ 6” players can use their skill rather than their physical presence to compete.
    Congratulations to the league that have stopped their medals and presentation nights to benefit all of their clubs not just the teams who attract the best players and win the cups. These nights are really only for a few teams who seem to want to win at all costs and ‘player rotation’ is a dirty word. We complain about money being lost to football through ridiculous player wages. We can also apply that the massive amounts of money spent on medals in our league being over £7000 a season. Wouldn’t this be better spent on training, new kit & equipment to benefit all clubs?

  11. Mark Strong on June 6, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Hi, I have been running our team which are now under 12s for the last five years, in the last couple of years I have lost 8 players to academys, every single one of them was born between September and December and I have one boy in my team which is techncally better than all of them however he is born in August. He could be up to 11 months younger than some of the other boys yet he gets over looked because at this moment in time he may not be as strong as them. My proposal is to leave school football and league football as it is so that the September, December boys excel there and to make academys calender year to give the summer kids a chance as I feel there is alot of young technical boys slipping through the net. Come on FA give the summer boys a chance!

  12. Dan on June 6, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    These changes are to help English players stay in the game for life by making it more enjoyable. Its a 15-20 year plan. By creating more and better players we will increase the numbers of adults in years to come, who in turn go on to coach and administer youth football in to the future.

    The 5 a side ‘problem’ is a no-brainer. You have one manager/coach with a squad of 11/12 and have 2 teams on match days. You play against another club with 2 teams and they play side by side on 2 pitches across a mini soccer pitch.

  13. Mike Hughes on June 6, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    Proposals to change year group to January to December, as proposed by Mr Strong and the Fa, for Academy players simply moves the advantage to January born children, this will lead to boys born from September to December effectively playing against boys from a higher school year, this i dare say will lead to a cull of these boys from academies. Imagine being in Year 4 playing against Year 5 boys! This once again will be likely to signal the end for the techinically gifted player not able to make the huge transition, The Fa are sanctioning the end for boys already in the system, the majority of the changes from the fa are excellent and overdue, however to sacrifice boys in this way just for age relative effect to take place is simply wrong. English football for to long has relied on size and strength,these changes need to take place for summer boys not to be disadvantaged granted, but the boys at clubs need to be in the thoughts of the fa too!

  14. Peter on June 7, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Hopefully the FA will abide by the rules they have implemented , by not allowing clubs to refuse to play on a surface they are not used to, at present ony 2 reasons are allowed for postponing a game, teams shouldn’t be allowed to make their own rules up as and when they wish so as to gain themselves an advantage, as for the above, we shall see what our children think, after all this is about them and their development in the game.

  15. Mark Strong on June 7, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    whatever hapanes we have got to stop these summer kids slipping through the net why are we differant from every other contry in europe how daft is it that when we take teams over seas we take kids from diffrent age groups so they all born in the same year.

  16. Lisa Draycott Fry on June 7, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    With regard to the earlier comment about scrapping presentation evenings – how ridiculous it’s the one night where everyone gets together, you know families? The children love getting medals and they all get a trophy to be proud of. We have the presentation at Holloway Uni then return to the club for BBQ and drinks. Its a fabulous day and the younger children get to mix with the older ones. Especially good this year as of course we all watched the CL final and Chelsea won, but every year it’s a great day for everyone and generates money for the club in bar receipts and charging for burgers etc.

  17. kevin shanks on June 7, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    I agree with mark strong. Most scouts preach development but in practice they pick the older lads. The younger lads who quite often have more genetic potential for development are overlooked because the expert scout cannot see beyond the moment. My son Ethan was born on 10th august and being a goalkeeper was always smaller than other lads. He will be playing u16 this coming season and is now over 6ft at still only 14 years, but we have had to put in a lot of hard work and have had to be patient in order for this to happen. The important thing is not to let these EXPERTS put you off . You just have to keep at it no matter what people think. It’s probably true to say that non of them know what they are doing, you only have to look at Blatter and Platini to see that. It’s really no different at the bottom than what it is at the top.

  18. jackie on June 10, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    I coach under 11s and have played 9v9 this season and thi.nk its been great for the kids weve had no problems at all i just wish we could have still been the same this coming season

  19. Eric Kershaw on June 12, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    For all those that feel the FA’s proposals are wrong or impractical, there is an alternative.

    The National Conference of Youth Leagues (NYCL) is an organisation whose purpose is to allow the volunteers who actually run Youth/Junior Football Leagues and Clubs to meet, share ideas and make the decisions on how best to move the junior game forward.
    These latest FA proposals remove the rights of children, parents and volunteers to spend their own spare time how they want.
    The FA have spent a lot of time and money publicising the negative aspects of the game.
    Parents need to be locked behind barriers, Team Managers become manic, League Officials are not prepared to “embrace change”.
    Nowhere do they give any credit to the ‘dinosaurs’ who actually built the very leagues upon which they now proudly stand.
    The purpose of this negative publicity is simply to make the FA appear like the saviours of junior football.
    So far, the FA have failed to provide any evidence that their ideas will make any difference whatsover.
    Don’t forget, the FA sang exactly the same song when they launched mini-soccer 12/14 years ago. Where are the stars 12 years later ?
    Development – Isn’t that what we have training nights for ?
    If you want ‘Development’ games (or friendlies as they are otherwise known in the amateur game) that’s fine but why do you want to impose your ideas on everyone else.
    If the FA’s ideas are so good, why do they need to be Mandatory – Surely a good idea will sail all by itself.

  20. life coach online on June 13, 2012 at 11:30 am

    If you increase the squad to 14 players and play 2 games one after the other this would mean 10 players on the pitch and 4 subs so more playing each game and 1 less sub.

  21. John s on June 23, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    I believe most of the steps are encouraging for the future of the game, however I would also liked to have seen things I have seen in Germany where I have lived as a soldier for many years.

    The Germany play indoor tournaments in the winter while we run around in the mud and they play most of their football in the better weather outside when we start to play cricket and go on a football break except for a few football tournaments, team dependant.

    The german youth league had teams with players of two different age groups with an even split and after each season half the team would progress to year above and join 6/7 players who have already played with a group of players who are a year older, this enables the game to be learnt at a better level as they are learning the game of each other.

    Also I have heard so much about kids taking penalties from a young age, I have seen the Germans doing this with kids from the age of 4 and nearly all their tournaments end in a penalty shoot out! If I child gets used to taking penalties from a young age they start to get used to the scenario unlike us who then hand the ball to a player in a shoot out game who has never took a competitive penalty in his life!

    At least we appear to be going in the right direction!

    Oak tree’s do come from small acorns!

  22. Natasha on June 24, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Some aspects of the FA proposals I fully understand but when it comes to moving under 7 and 8 teams to 5 a side you will have many teams finding it hard to get management and referee’s for games. Also on the understanding that it will be based on years not academic years, this season three of our players have been signed born September to December but this shouldn’t be at fault of their own by changing the system no matter which way it is looked at certain minorities are going to be left behind.

  23. Keith Stanton on June 25, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    my son has played in leagues for the last 2 seasons at u11 and u12, the team he is involved with are all in the same academic year at school, if this change goes ahead where the season goes from jan to dec, most of the team won’t be able to play in this team again, the consequences being the team will be disbanded after being together for at leat 6 seasons most of them. this would be such a blow to kids at a very important time in their lives. my advice to these meddlers is to leave the system as it is,,
    if it’s not broke don’t try to fix it

  24. Keith Stanton on June 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    as to our kid not having league tables and not to be competative surely goes against the nature of sport in general. you would have no winners and no losers WHY? you can’t see a 100 metre runner walking to the finishing line and having every one else there with him/her, why would you run in the first place? whoever thought of this is out of their mind possibly.. it’s no wonder we (england) can’t win anything with these strategies.. i believe, along with many others, to better yourselves you have to play to win, and don’t get me started on not taking or practicing penalties at an early age..even the professionals now can’t score them (look at all the competitions england have lost on penalties) because we don’t practice them, and as to not having presentation evenings, what a load of rubbish, what do you play football for?. it’s great to see their faces when they go to collect their trophies. they have looked forward to this all season. if these silly ideas are implemented you might aswell stop football matches altogether, even in tiddlywinks you have a winner
    if the powers that be started to make winners, maybe england can be the force we once were

  25. Neil Gilmartin on June 25, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Wouldn’t we really want our kids playing football with the skill and passing of the Spanish, strength and organisation of the germans, flair of the Italians, Samba football of the Brazillians or something simply better than what our kids have to grow up to see and will continue to see the many disappointments of the England team.

    Surely the kids themselves need to be given the infrastructure and the facilities rather than the peer pressure from the parents and who stand on the touchlines hoping ‘little johnny’ will become a premiership footballer on £250k a week.

    Most coaches look at success by results, bigger stronger more developed players from the school year to give them the edge in the leagues and competitions they compete in.

    It’s GOT TO CHANGE and we need to find the ways and ideas to do it, there are people in junior football who have the vision and skill to change things and they need to be pushed and promoted.

    All the money in FA from the Premiership and TV rights is the positive legacy that needs to go to fund a new vision in the UK and give our kids a better future in football rather than repeat the same old mistakes.

  26. John Pearson on June 26, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Catching youngsters at an early age and teaching them ball skills and passinbg is the key to our improvement in the game. They should also be taught to take penalties so that it all becomes nstural to them.

    Smaller pitches, smaller balls and smaller goals for the youngest are essentials.

    The idea that here should be no winners in games is ludicrous, they should be taught that the harder they work in trauining will result in success on the field: hey should know that winning is important and their generally have to be a loser. Losing a game is not everything if he children realise that they must try harder next time. Comradeship and team spirit are what are needed.

  27. Alex on June 30, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    In answer to the comment ‘If it’s not broken why try and fix it’… well my friend it is very much broken !
    If British football is ever to catch up with our European counterparts in technical ability then a football revolution is required.
    Its unlikley Messi would have ever been picked up by the dinasour scouts that pose as talent scouts had he been born in England. (ok.. bad example, but you get my drift. )
    I have been coaching a kids team for nearly six years now and am saddended how the academies still go for the bigger stronger older boys(only for them to be dumped when they don’t develop technacially as expected… duuuhh, they were never technacially good.. just bigger and stronger due to their age and early maturity !) while overlooking the potential talent of some of the smaller, faster players.
    So what I am trying to say is we can change the league set up all we want, split the teams age wise (this will still give the older players in that split the advantage by the way !), but until the academies start looking for pure potential talent we will never improve as a nation and continue to fall behind the rest of the world. Boys (and girls), will physically develop at such different speeds there is always going to be a disadvantage for the smaller ones whilst moving through the age groups (however the FA set it up), the Proffesional Clubs searching for future talent need to see through this.

  28. Colin on July 1, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    All this is very very messy with so many mixed messages. It is a shame what is happening. The FA should be looking into premiership clubs scouting system instead of 9v9 etc. If you have a team let’s say under 8s playing fantastic fluent football , they know each other – pass- move – etc – then the scouts find out about this amazing team that have been playing together since they were 5 and take 2 or 3 players / they can’t play for the club they have been with then one might make it the other two don’t make it and they dont want to play football ever again.
    Scouting should be re-structured so the big Prem clubs work with the children at their local football clubs not take them and build their hopes up to fail.

  29. antony galligan on July 2, 2012 at 10:55 am

    These changes are long over due,as a nation we tend to air on the side of caution when were asked too change,but this is about developing good technical players,as well as making the game a more positive 1 for the kids.i used to cringe at some of the comments ive heard directed at 7/8 yr olds by both sets of parents,to implement these changes properly th fa should run more coach education courses free of charge 2 or 3 weekends per season,the 2 go hand in hand,u can only improve plyrs if u improve grass roots coaching,the plans are well thought through,5v5 up 2 9v9 gr8 idea,personelly i would like to see all junior teams affiliated 2 the fa but moreover linked to there local pro clubs,pro clubs have a responsibility to there local grass root clubs,after all its where they cherry pick there acadamey plyrs from,community coaches and 1 senior acadamey member should arrange and attend once a week sessions for younger age groups at local venues,the fa should closely monitor excellent prospects and liase with the pro club to ensure a players development is the best they can offer,also ensure that decicions are not made whereby talented players are allowed to slip thru the net because of an acadamey coaches poor decision etc,a step in the right direction,once implemented lets improve it and keep it as a working progress,not sit back and admire are work.

  30. antony galligan on July 2, 2012 at 11:07 am

    have to agree with the bottom comment untill we search for recognise and smaller gifted players,we will find it very difficult to compete with the south americans or top europeans,the acadameys are deliberatly choosing height and strength over skill vision awareness intelligence,ive seen kids released that i would of killed to have in my side,and ive seen players raved about that i wouldnt of put into my youth teams at amatuer level.i speak from experience of acadamies,with the exception of mcr utd,whom completely ignore a players height and stregnth,we have to adress why acadamies do this,in spain and italy its frowned upon,i spoke with a celta vigo coach on holiday and he said he recognises a player by his boots and his touch,he told me that for the first year of coaching a youngster he hardly ever looked at the player just his feet.for the sake of the nation and young kids development i genuinely hope we come good on this.

  31. jon on July 2, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Yeah, good ideas in principle. Only problem is, all the best talent are snapped up by academies by the time they are 8 or 9 year old now anyway. Changing the structure in all the youth leagues wont make one jot of difference to our national game. The best of the rest who have not been hand picked generally progress to the semi pro clubs at best. In fact the academy players who dont quite make it drop into those slots too. If the academy players were “allowed” to play on Sunday morning with their mates, then this idea would be ok, but they are’nt so why bother. Let the lesser players who wont make it just get on with playing for their own trophies and pride. I dont see any comments from the FA telling me who will provide the extra goals, pitches and coaches for this format.

  32. Lazerlight on July 4, 2012 at 12:58 am

    After 25 years of being involved in youth football i totally disagree with the imposition of 9v9. It is my belief longterm it will lead to a reduction of in the number of teams and children involved in football. Mini soccer has already had a effect on the number of teams involved in our local leagues. But as usual everthing is been pushed along by theorist and the FA is blind to critism with their heads in the sand.
    I hope I am wrong but time will tell

  33. Ian HS on July 6, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Well in hindsight maybe if we had implimented some of John Cartwrights ideas thirty odd years ago, rather than re invent some of them now, we would not be in this pickle! I was at PSV 6 years ago and they were getting 5 year olds to play with goalies 1v1, then 2v2, 3v3 etc with a slightly inceased space as each team grew. I believe the F.A did go and look at this I did tell F.A Educators I knew or had seminars with. Society and School P.E curriculums are different these days. I am not suggesting that we are totally a Nannie state as I appreciate the Childrens welfare/safety etc should come first ,( there was not enough in my day )BUT we are having to introduce fundamentals and ABCs with regard to football because children do not do enough discovery these days through play. Everything is pre booked or over governed.Not enough jumpers for goal posts when not with their team! We need to teach our players the proper football mechanics not formations to win a piece of plastic to satisfy dads forlorn dreams! Keep healthy competition by all means BUT plenty of touches,opportunities to receive in tight spaces, feel natural with the ball, one touch if you can, two if you have to, three if you must. If we can not pass, (unless static and balanced), on the move, and learn under some pressure/interference, we are never going to be able to play all these wonderful systems. Look at Spain 1- 4-6-O.One day I think it will be a spine formation 1-1-1-1 with the rest playing total football around them.
    Football is changing and so must parents and us as coaches the F.A et al!

  34. Damo on July 7, 2012 at 11:32 am

    9V9 great format for weaker teams but please do not think it is the answer to teams getting thrashed from week to week being the manager of a weak team for the past 3 years from U9’s to now U12. After playing 9V9 format last season there is still the win at all costs there can be no real point for teams to win by greater than a few goals for the development of football as a whole. My league decided to introduce a gentleman’s agreement where once the score reached 4-0 that the winning team would take gas off and allow the opposition to catch up, great in principle but it was never observed by the majority and this is the problem with the game today. Yes we need to be competitive its part of the game but if you continuously tread on teams that have no chance of winning because they fail to attract better players you end up creating a format where only the rich and powerful can play and there ending the Roy of the Rovers school boy dream of lifting the FA cup. I believe that the FA are making the right moves but it should really be better education for managers and try and get then to buy into the idea that a close competitive 4-2 game is better to win than a whitewash 15-0 and this benefits every one!

  35. Matt J on July 13, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Ian HS says:

    Well in hindsight maybe if we had implimented some of John Cartwrights ideas thirty odd years ago, rather than re invent some of them now, we would not be in this pickle!

    Ian you’re 100% correct.

    For those that don’t Know John Cartwright used to head up Youth development for the F.A and manage the English U18’s with whom he won the 1980 Euro Championship and lead the team to 4th place in the Youth World Championsips the following year.

    John tried to open the F.A.’s eyes to the fact we need to change the way we develop youth players and coaches in order build a better football style and philiosophy. Unfortunately Charles Hughes had other ideas. John resigned and England have been subjected to the long ball / kick and rush style of football ever since

    John now runs premier skilks – a company that delivers coach education and player development courses. John also writes a regular blog. It’s a great read and a real eye opener for those who want to learn how football should really be played (its not very kind to the F.A). http://keeptheball.wordpress.com/

  36. claire on July 18, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Hi, I just wanted to let you know whats has happened in my sons situation. My son since the age of 2 has had amazing ball control etc etc. He started at a football school when he was 4. He has always been one of the smallest younger boys, but people have always commented on his strength, fitness, stamina, vision of the game and say he is technically gifted. I started to tell him when he was 5 that he needs to pass the ball, my husband wasnt happy and said to me let him do his super runs etc etc. Anyway I ignored my husband and trained my son to pass etc etc, I am not a coach but have always been into sport etc. When he was 5 and a half he was spotted by a premier league club, also lots of our local league clubs and our local championship league team. I also had lots of interest in him from other premier league clubs. We had a lot to think about. All the clubs have said he is extremely technically gifted, has an amazing ability to read the game, amazing in defence although he loves it in midfield, scores lots of goals but isnt a big shooter. He is always a step ahead in the game and sets up amazing goals. He is very slim and athletic average height, has an amazing passion for the game, its all he thinks about. None of the clubs have been bothered by his size, height, being one of the youngest, they just love is ability. He was training at the premier league club and the local championship league club and got into the top 20 boys at the premier league club ready to be signed for the under 9s, but after a lot of disscussions with my son and our family, we decided to keep him at the local Championship league team dispite the big club wanting him, as we wanted him to have the best youth system to develop him and the Championship league club he has just signed for have an amazing setup which is extremely exciting. My son is loving his football and is looking forward for his under 9s season to begin. If he had been born ten years earlier I know they would have been no chance of these clubs wanting him due to size etc, thank god things are changing. In his under 9s squad there are a few extremely technical small boys, not big built that are amazing players, fast, strong, vision amazing in defense etc etc with hearts of warriors, so in my opinion and experience the academies are changing there ways with choosing boys on technical ability and skill etc etc rather than size. Just though would share that with you.

  37. Matt J on July 18, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    My friends son is in the same situation as Claires. He got signed last year for a league 1 club, and i got invited to go and watch them play against another league 1 side (pretty sure they were U9’s at the time). My friend’s sons team were all either small or avergae height and build, but my god these kids played some great football – skills, passing moving …….It really was a pleasure to watch! The team they played against was the stereotypical academy set up. All of them huge for their age group. they basically out muscled the opposition but don’t think they strung 5 passes together.

    I think things are slowly changing for the better but feel we’ve still got some way to go before the old fashioned mentality of bigger is better is removed.

    Hopefully the professional clubs will start to be a bit more patient with the smaller lads going forward rather than just picking the monsters who win games by muscle rather than ability

  38. boo on August 4, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Hi, I would just share my thoughts as a dad to a six year old who is tall, strong on the ball, technically brilliant, has very good balance and control and sometimes is afraid to go in for a tackle and goes to 2 centre of excellencies since the age of 4.5. He loves the game and HE chooses if he goes training, my point is that some of the comments are going on about small players (the bigger the better), its not my sons fault he is naturally tall (at the moment). If a boy is talented he is talented height should not come in to it.

    At my sons local club we have an excellent set up we play 5 v 5 and every boy irrelevant of talent gets a go. there is still competitiveness who doesn’t like to win. Though some parents need to realise there are not the coaches and it only confuses the kids when parents are telling them what to do and the coaches are too, most of the time if you let them get on with it and have fun it turns out alright and our coaches don’t tell them they ask, can you pass, can you dribble, can you look up etc etc

  39. Pat on October 7, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    I would just like to say that anything that changes the mentality of some of the trainers and parents will be a god send.

    My child, who is only 7, plays in a local league for a local football team. He had a match today and was the only one in the team that was not given a chance to play even for a few minutes. I admit he is not the strongest of all the players but he is enthusiastic. It was heart breaking seeing him keep asking the coach when he would be allowed to play.

    I think it is terrible after travelling 15 miles to the away game that this is happening to young kids. Parents and coaches are shouting at their kids for not getting the ball and parents even calling their kids names.

    For goodness sake, anyone would have thought it was the Premier league the way they carry on. I am in two minds whether to let my son carry on with the game. I cant stand this “win at all costs mentality” of these people for kids of this young age. I thought sport was supposed to be fun.

    Also if you go to a club that has two coaches and each has a son playing, then your child is less likely to play in favour of them even if there are better players. I think the FA needs to look at these issues first.

  40. mick on November 11, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    my son plays for a new under 8s football team.in lower level and just because they won a few games the league have put them into level 1 with very good players and a few academy players in .i think its time to take out all acadamy players out and this would give teams a the same level than just killing of teams 6-1 and four nile .as i know one team with 3 academy in a 7 a side.its about time for the fa to change the rules regading academy players in and take them out of under 8s teams

  41. Stuart Evans on January 9, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    I think this is a really positive development.
    I have just started coaching Under 9’s this season after having worked prevously with older age groups (16+, both Male and Female)
    It astonishes me how teams play and I find it alarming that sides can literally be encouraged to play “long ball” at Under 9’s.
    I personally however think some of the pitches we currently play on are too long, they should be squarer and rules introduced that the keepers can only throw/roll the ball out, this would encourage playing out from the back and would stop teams hoofing it down the middle and games still being dominated by bigger boys who are more physically developed than their counterparts.
    I would also suggest limiting the size of squads, we play 7-a-side and have 2 teams, a total squad of 18 and not all are available all the time so lads get planety of game time when they can make it. Very relaxed and it is all about development. However, i am aware of some teams that have upwards of 40/50 Boys in their squads – when are these lads getting any playing time??

  42. Carol Brooking on January 14, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Can you tell me of any ruling of substitutions in the age 7/8 group.Is there a min amount of time a player is entitled to play before being substituted?Or is it down to the team manager.
    Many thanks Carol Brooking.

  43. andrew aldworth on January 29, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    hi i am actually looking for local young teams preferbly the under 11’s age range that need managers i have had experience with running my own team which was an adult team in the chessington and district league since i have recently left thatm in very capable hands i have an urge to run a younger team as their manager if you can help in any way it would be very appreciated

  44. Jo on January 30, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    In grass roots football we have girls leagues and boys leagues I know girls can play in the boys league but can boys play in a girls league? If the answer to this is yes why do we have two different leagues? I am very cofused please help!

  45. Simon Waite on February 1, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    I’ve been saying for years that our kids start playing on the big pitch too soon. I applaud the changes.

    The ‘long ball’ style is very 1990’s now. In the current format it’s natural teams will hoof the ball up to their big are fast striker to get score goals. Not just because that’s the simplest way to get the win – but because the pitch is so big that it’s too hard to keep the pass and move going.

    Today’s (and probably tomorrow’s) football requires player’s with quality technical ability. Whilst having fun the kids can learn to confidently pass the ball between each other.

    Every match is a competition – and the idea of small seasons within a season is great, a nice blend. Week to week we focus on ability whilst trying to win a game, but every so often we are playing for a prize.

    Exciting times ahead for me and my squad of 15 U8’s!

  46. Martin on February 3, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    I will be very interested to see how long you can keep your pass and move football going when you are playing across or down the centre of a pitch played on the previous day by twenty two adults. Won’t be long before your team turns to long ball football simply because of the state of the pitches. This country needs a massive investment in ‘quality maintained’ facilities and these should have been provided before any change in formats were forced on us.

  47. dave from wigan on February 6, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    i think the fa are missing one vital point with this non competative football, they are kidding them selves if they think people will volenteer to run teams when theres no point to what they are doing, why should they and the parents spend money on subs and fuel, travel everywhere in all weathers for a game of football that means nothing, oh sorry it dose mean something, the fa think by doing this they will create a better national team, thats very kind of you fa, lets sacrifice millons of kids childhoods on th e off chance the national team mindnt develop, do you not think thats a bit selfish.

  48. Craig Addison on February 28, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    I have mixed opinions on the proposed changes and could easily put arguments for and against the changes the FA want to implement. The one thing we cant get away from is the fact the the style of football the FA are trying to encourage requires consistent, well maintained playing surfaces that encourage the fast paced technical play and the fact of the matter is that there are not enough facilites even at academy level. I am usually dissapointed with Premiership football and I find it slow paced and it is played in a way that discourages any significant effort from the players (there are always exceptions). A classic example was Liverpool V Oldham, on paper and on wages it should have been a walk in the park but Oldham pressed all game, effort was high and the stopped the alleged footballers playing football and they went on to win. My point being is that its not only technical playes that are needed its committed, fit players who can play different styles of football when it is needed. Grass roots football has to improve it facilites and accesibility before it will see improvments in players coming through the ranks, I have seen truly outstanding academy players look foolish because of poor playing surfaces, this overtime has lead to a loss in confidence and general perfomance, leading to more longer balls rather than playing from the back. 3G facilities should be being made avaialble for all small sided football and consideration should be given to mini soccer being played in the summer months.

    I love the idea of a 3 section season, but I am not so keen on the none competative element. Temas will still hand select players and there will be issues with inclusion regarldess of whether it is competative or none competative football. What is essentail is that every division in every league is fun and all teams are equal in ability making them as fair as possible.

  49. Hannah A on March 30, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    I had many issues before with youth football I have 3 sons whom all have had amazing ball skills since 2yrs old, when it was possible I got them involved with teams now my husband is a coach at the same club. I guess my kids were fortunate as my husband was a professional keeper in his country of birth so having his experience has been an amazing help and now the club that he is coaching has had kids go to arsenal and chrystal palace. However my son aged 7 (8 in Nov) was devestated to be told by our club that he would not be able to continue in his team as he plays a year above due to under 9’s going competative he was absolutely heartbroken, he has great skill,ability and control.He is tall but very thin for his age but dont be fooled as he is extremely strong and has shocked many opponents! I have always believed their height/size or age should make no difference if they can hold their own and progress they should be encouraged to do so. He has been training with his older brother who is 3yrs older since he was 5 and can run rings around some of the other boys even pointing out what they do wrong! I am now hoping the changes mean that he will be able to continue to play for his team now and in the future. Football needs a shake up but I also believe that some areas of this country miss out on just because of where they are situated on the map if championship and premier clubs scouted in other areas they will be suprised at what they may find and what they have missed out on.

  50. Andrew price on April 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Iv 3 boys 6,9,11 and all play football around the Newark area .. My 9,& 11 year olds both played for forest in the past and my 9 year old has been spotted and asked to play for Doncaster as he’s a very strong striker and is much bigger and looks older then the average 9 yr old kid, they both represent England /GB in k1 and fullcontact kickboxing and we have always supported and pushed/supported them and only ever wonted them to play together in the same team witch they both have waited to do for the last 2 years but now the FA purpose to change the rules so they can’t play because of age differences ….. With a very disappointed 9 year old on our hands as perants what can we do about this situation as feel it should be other way round , we should be giving our kids bigger goals in life and maybe in the long run if any kid say yes I won’t to do it or no they don’t won’t to do its the perants call ??????

  51. rachel on May 11, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    hia just a quick question , my son is currently playing for an u8 team but has recently been told he has to move down a year basically back to u8 rather than go to u9’s , he turns 8 in November can he play for u9 or does he have to move down a year by fa rules ??

  52. Tom Hall on May 13, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    I currently coach an under 11 team at Wideopen Juniors. I believe that Northumbria FA were amongst the first to try out the new strategy. I will say that at the start of the season I was very optimistic about 9 a side, however a massive problem this season has been facilities. Almost every pitch we have played on has either been too big too small or marked out with cones on an 11 a side pitch. I would say that it is essential that if the FA wants to take this idea forward then the FA needs to make sure that EVERY club has the correct size pitches and the correct size goals in place as well. Then 9 a side will certainly work otherwise you might as well just go straight to 11 a side or stay at 7 a side as I believe school teams tend to do.

  53. Dave on May 18, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    What do people think about lads and girls playing on both a Saturday and Sunday for different teams. I coach an under 12’s team which play on a Sunday. A rival team has set up a team which plays on a Saturday. Is this too much football – next season it goes to 35 minutes each way.

  54. frank on June 9, 2013 at 9:10 am

    hi l’m just starting coaching our u6’s, and am a bit confused about squad sizes. can squads only consist of 6 or 12 0r 18 etc, and will this mean l will have to 3 teams of 6 players

  55. Barry Murray on June 17, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    We currently have 1 boy who is slightly below our teams age group (U10s in September). We allowed him to join because his brother, who is 10 months older, is in the team and it makes it easier on his mum who doesn’t drive to get them to matches. The younger brother is actually about 4 or 5 inches taller than his older brother.

    Will he be allowed to continue playing for our team next season?

    Thanks, Barry.

  56. Ian Nichols on November 6, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    Can someone please point me to where the details of “age range” are shown and at which year group they are valid.

  57. Nicola on September 1, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    What age or school year do you need to be, to play in a league for under 13’s

  58. Michelle Davison on March 9, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    my oldest son age 10 plays for an under 10s team (Going to be under 11 in september). My other son age also plays in same team. He’s 10 in October this year. Will he be able to play for that team when they start in the under 11.

  59. tamara king on May 3, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    If you are 13 are you classed as junior or a senior as I’m confused

  60. janet on May 29, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    hi my grandson play for under 10 going under 11 this season he not 10 till 30 july can he still play in the under 10 instead of the under 11 all the lads are already 10 so he the youngest

  61. Craig on June 19, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Why can’t kids play 11 a side in June? Local fa won’t allow us to play a friendly tonight?

  62. Chris on October 5, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    Can anyone tell me if my 11 year old grandson who wants to leave his Sunday side to play on sat have to get a transfer form from his Sunday team please

  63. Harry Gunson on November 5, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    Can anyone tell me what I should do if I have arranged a 7 a side squad of 14 year olds and we are wanting to enter a league or competition. Email me as soon as possible please.

  64. Diane on February 28, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    Will there be any exceptions made if your has always played 2 years up?

  65. Diane Cooper on April 8, 2016 at 11:54 am

    Will we get a reply

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