In the first of a new series where you lead the debate on key issues in grassroots sport, football coach Rob Andre tells us why he thinks ignoring goal difference at youth football tournaments is unfair. Do you agree?
Goal difference needs to be reintroduced at youth level. Children understand it and it is part of football.
I had a extremely unpleasant situation this month where my under-11s team – Blandford United Beechwood, playing in the Dorset Youth Cup – were left broken-hearted and now feel a real injustice towards the governing body, which can’t be right.
We were playing in a Champions League-style format where the top two teams in a group went through to the quarter finals. At the end of the group stage, three teams were all on the same points. My team had a +15 goal difference and the second- and third-placed team both had +6.
But because goal difference is deemed unfair, the three managers had to draw lots.
So we all picked an envelope – if the number inside was ‘1’ or ‘2’ then your team were through to the quarter finals.
I picked ‘3’, so my team was out. This was unfair on the children, as they had no control over this and it was not reflective if what they did on the football pitch.
Having to explain to children that, whilst they did everything so well in their games, I had let them down by picking the wrong envelope, they were so upset and to look at their faces and tell them was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I never want any child or manager to go through that again.
They understand goal difference and some of them based maths homework on points and our goal difference scenarios.
They feel completely let down and are disillusioned with the rules and the system. They all said: “football is about what we do on the pitch and goals, how can they tell us we were out by picking an envelope?” It is not fair.
Luckily I have good, honest and grounded boys in my team, who are now defiant and want to achieve even more. But they feel very let down by a very unfair system. I know the association do not like the word “cheated” but my children all used that word. That is how they see it.
They have been cheated by the system out of a competition – and competitive football is rare for them at under-11s – by an act that does not reflect football as they understand it.
For these situations goal difference needs to be reintroduced, as no child should be told they are out of a cup by the picking of lots. It is unfair on them and unfair on us coaches who put our heart, soul and time into our young teams.
Have your say – give us your view!
Do you agree with Rob that goal difference should be scrapped in tournaments such as this? Or do you think the ‘no goal difference’ policy is a good idea? We want to hear from you, so have your say in the comments section below.
If you have a strong opinion that you’d like to voice on anything in grassroots sport, or there’s a topic that you’d like to put up for debate, email us at [email protected] and you could be the next person to feature here on ‘My view’.