FA shifts goalposts to show need for youth reform

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.

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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. Barrie Osgood on September 19, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    I agree with the FA on this issue as i have been a Coach of the said ages and they struggle with the current problem.
    How can a minor enjoy the ` beautiful game ` when they conceide so many goals?
    Time to enjoy and produce skill at this age and not just glory.

  2. Martin on September 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    ‘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.’
    But its quite alright for a 12 year old goalkeeper to have to defend a full-size adult goal (according to Nick Levetts proposals). What you should be asking is why Nick and the FA wasted money on having these oversized goals made and then filming them in use. The money could have been far better spent elsewhere. Nobody involved in grassroots football wants to see kids playing on full size pitches with 24 x 8 goals, which is why many decent clubs installed youth pitches with 21 x 7 goals. This country needs a masive investment in quality facilities and their maintenance when completed not endless roadshows and publicity stunts. The FA talk the talk but would rather see hundreds of millions spent for elite players use only rather than investing in true grassroots football and grassroots leagues

  3. Jamie taylor on September 19, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    All well and good nick levett and the FA keep banging on about oversized goals and pitches etc and going round on a publicity stunt with their stupid oversized goal. All sounds great in theory but they can’t even get the basics right. My son has just started his first season at 9v9 and we get 2 our first game and no lines painted on the new size pitch so we had 2 cone it out. Second game of the season is called off due to no lines being painted again on the new size pitch. We’ve also spoke 2 other teams in the league that are having to play their home games away due to either no pitch or no 9v9 goals being available that were ordered months ago. Surely levett and the FA should make sure the facilities are available before trying to implement these changes to the youth game!

  4. Alan on September 19, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Interesting about investment in grassroots,not where I live in Plymouth, we have old dated goals,nearly no changing rooms and pitches on slopes, to play football woiuld be great if the facilities suited. Why not extend to Under 13 11-a-side to use 21×7 goals as well rather than24x8 which seem stupid.

  5. M78 on September 20, 2012 at 8:23 am

    In Scotland we play seven a side up until under 13s is that not the case in England?

  6. John Houghton on September 22, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    I believe this is a good eye catching thing to do, it is what follows that counts. The 9v9 idea was introduced by some leagues,in the London area, to reduce the number of particularly girls teams disbanding. The situation has changed again & we have stronger teams numbers wise. What is happening is that these clubs are either having to play a rotation system, or as in the case of my granddaughters team decide to run two teams of 9, this has caused its own problems how do you divide the players up one very strong team & one weaker team or try to acieve two teams of equal strength. what we have seen is clubs losing players again. It is true that a great deal of money needs to be focused on providing very good facilities covering all ages. It needs the sort of lottery funding that has been poured into elite sportsmen & women, the results of which have been seen by everybody over this summer. The problem is one of who takes responsibility for the facilities after they are created,if ever that happens. One thing is sure it has to be a proper body which is groundsman based to en sure once you have good facilities you keep good grounds NOT as we have seen with local councils opting out of looking after public football & other sports facilities. From a young age they need to experience decent facilities changing rooms for instance. This will encourage youngsters to stay in the game, but at 16 they must be playing 11 a side, they know that is the proper game & what all the versions 9v9, 7v7 or 5v5 has been leading to.

  7. billy nglis on September 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    9v9 sfa wantto copy asap what are we waiting for,

    11 a side goals for u13 same size of goal peta check defends,,,murder

  8. Paul Reid on September 26, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    This is an absolute joke!!!!! Big coverage of the FA on changing its format etc saying it will be better for grassroots.

    Idea from Brainchild – Nick Levett !!!!

    The SFA have been running this for a few years now and currently run 4v4, 5v5 and 7v7. The SFA have also changed the goal sizes for all age groups.

    So where did the idea come from!!! Always the FA…

  9. shaun on September 28, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    yes we need change in some areas why is it this is mandatory let the people who run grassroots decide how best to go forward.
    we do not have a vote on the executive board these changes have been brought in by people who dont even attend junior games or i bet havent even to been to a junior club let the grassroots people vote

  10. Shaun on September 28, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Why are the FA being congratulated on something that was obvious to everyone involved in grassroots, this is long overdue and now let’s see some investment in pitches, for too long we’ve asked our children to play on ridiculously sized and appauling pitches – come on let loose of the purse strings and show everyone you’re serious about investing in the games future!

  11. matt manning on September 28, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    I would be very interested to see a match played between teams picked by size and not age. When adults comment on a players superior ability they are usually just describing the childs more adanced physical development due to their early birthday within the school year. As for the goals issue, as long as the goals are the same size for both teams it doesn’t really make a difference.

  12. Cliff. Sturmey on September 28, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    How many of you attended the F.A. Workshops arranged by Nick Levett.

    A consenus of opinion was attained from the 2,000 registered coaches of the F.A. from around the country, based on a mandate given to N.L. by the F.A.

    The fact that a great deal of the positives given by the coaches will not see the light of day, is disappointing for N.L. who sumitted his proposals to the F.A. last January.

    When kids play end of season tournaments with 5/6/7 asides, it has never ceased to amaze me why it took educated people to put 2 nd 2 together.

    Why did we restict the pitch sizes when reducing teams numbers, more space give kids more time to control and maybe run with the ball, all we have done is reduce teams numbers and playing areas and achieve nothing with exception of losing the weaker players from team squads as they are no longer required.

  13. Wayne johnson on September 29, 2012 at 9:26 am

    I’m all for playing short sided football for under 10,s to help develop the children’s abilities, but as anyone stop to think what the kids want. When we switched to 11 aside at u11s the kids were made up. They finally got to play the game the way their football heroes did. People are talking as if it’s only beneficial for some teams. Every team is on level pegging when it comes to the big goals and I don’t see any reason to change that . You coach football to improve the kids abilities and it’s down to you to delevop the skill to adapt. Football is a sport and sport is about winning. I think if you ask the the young players what they wanted to play on, then I think you would find they would choose full pitch and full goals. The FA need to rethink what they are trying to achieve by changing the way we play our beautiful game. They are in danger of making the game boring. And as for this none competitive football for under 10. Well thats really going to develop our young players isn’t it.

  14. Will Moody on September 29, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    I set up and ran a league in South Africa in 2006. I worked from a blank piece of paper at the start, looked at the size of a child and worked out how big a goal needed to be for U12’s. It worked a treat. We also played on a pitch which was 75m by 50 m with 9 players a side.
    If I can work out that this allows players to learn how to play the game to a much better technical standard than is being played over here in the UK why cannot the FA.
    I have tried to email the FA on several occasions about these matters and have not had a response!

  15. william on March 13, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    still no 9 v 9 in escocia

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