The Football Association has created a set of giant goalposts to highlight the need for reforming youth football in England.
The oversized goal, which dwarfs an adult goalkeeper, is designed to highlight the need for changes in pitch and goal size for many of our young footballers.
The idea was the brainchild of FA National Development Manager for Youth Football Nick Levett (pictured above) and was featured on BBC Breakfast on Saturday.
In May FA stakeholders voted in favour of implementing the most significant changes to youth football in over a decade, including the introduction of a new 9v9 format for under-11 and 12s, played on pitches and with goals appropriate to the players’ age.
The new format will be phased in alongside a new 5v5 game for under-7s and 8s from the start of next season, becoming mandatory by the 2014/15 season.
This will spell an end to the absurd spectacle of an 11-year-old goalkeeper having to defend a full-size adult goal, as is the case in many matches under the current setup.
After putting BBC Breakfast’s Mike Bushell through his paces in the new goal, Levett explained the reasoning behind the FA’s changes.
“As soon as you put kids on massive pitches, adults want to win and pick bigger, stronger and faster kids,” he said.
“They’ll get kids just to whack it over the top and when they get through to a huge goal and a tiny little kid, there’s no challenge for them and it’s very easy for them to score.
“So in theory, with the changes to smaller pitches and smaller goals, you can have much more of a focus on technique and skill development for the future generations.”
The changes to the player pathway will be accompanied by a more ‘child-centered’ approach to competition, – featuring shorter periods of competition instead of a traditional single season based around one league table – in a bid to get rid of the ‘win-at-all-costs’ mentality that blights some sections of the youth game.
Levett described the changes as a “massive step forward for the future of children’s football in this country.”
Many junior leagues have already introduced 9v9 football, with over half of under-11s leagues across England expected to be running the new format this season, despite not being required to.
The oversized goal has been in use again at St George’s Park today, as 15 grassroots coaches joined Levett on an oversized pitch to film an FA video promoting the changes to youth football.
“The pitch and goal really hit home what we make under 11s experience,” Levett added.
“It seems so stupid that we did this to kids!”
Find out more about the FA’s reforms for youth football.
Watch the BBC Breakfast feature.