News & Updates

FA positive as roadshow draws to a close

The Football Association’s consultation on proposed changes to youth football in England has been met with an overwhelmingly positive response from the grassroots football community.

That was the message from senior FA figures as the Your Kids Your Say roadshow stopped off at The Valley, home of Charlton Athletic FC, on Wednesday for the fourteenth of 16 events on a national tour.

Director of Football Development Sir Trevor Brooking said the proposals, which would lead to the most radical shake-up of youth football in over a decade, have been widely supported by roadshow attendees over the summer.

“It’s been very good,” said Brooking. “There’s been lots of different views but, overall, the majority of the suggestions everyone is supportive of.”

The FA’s proposals, which aim to make youth football more child-focused, include the introduction of 5v5 and 9v9 formats, delaying 11-a-side football until the under-13 age group, removing competitive league football for all children of primary school age and shifting youth football from the traditional academic year-groups to run instead by calendar year.

When the consultation period closes this month the proposals must be passed to various FA committees over the coming months before being put to FA stakeholders at the next AGM in May 2012. If signed off, the changes will become mandatory from the start of the 2013/14 season.

The FA is keen to provide time for leagues, clubs and volunteers across the country to prepare for any changes but, if the roadshow is any indication, they feel the mood is there around the country to embrace change.

Kelly Simmons, the FA’s Head of National Game described the roadshow as “really positive” and said that the FA were “delighted with the response we’ve had”.

“There’s been a lot of support for bridging the gap between mini-soccer and 11-a-side,” she told Club Website, “and we’ve had a really healthy debate about the impact of introducing competition too early and providing the right kind of environment for young kids where we prioritise development over results.”

Nick Levett, National Development Manager for Youth Football and the man behind the roadshows, echoed Simmons’ view.

“If, before the consultation started, you’d said that it would be as well-received as this, I’d be over the moon,” he said. “I thought there would be more dissenters or people against different parts.

“But we went through some of the stats from the early roadshows and 90 percent strongly agree or agree with the new formats of the game, while 97 percent strongly agree with the competition approach.

“That was the bit that staggered me. I thought there would be a real opposition to that but I think leagues are recognising the flexibility to be creative with child-centred competition, which is great.

“Around 70 percent agree with the move to the calendar year birth bias.  22 percent weren’t sure – it’s something new and they might not have thought about before. It’s not something tangible, like a game format or the size of a pitch, so I’m not too concerned about it. Only 8 percent disagree so, again, there’s good support for it.”

The consultation draws to a close this month, but there is still a chance for the grassroots community to get involved. If you live in the East Midlands or North West you could attend one of the final two roadshows in Nottingham (19 September) or Bolton (21 September).

Levett encourages people to attend if they can.  If they can’t, he says people can still email their feedback on the proposals to, where all information will be read, if not responded to individually.

But people need to act soon if they want to contribute to the consultation because, as Levett says: “There comes a time when we decide that this is what it looks like, otherwise we’ll be talking about it forever and we’ll never make a decision.”

Whilst Levett admits that the roadshow may have seen him preaching to the converted, he is pleased by the positive attitude toward the challenges faced in implementing the changes, particularly those concerning new pitch markings and goalposts for the new formats of the game.

“There have been a lot less challenges than I thought there would be. I thought that facilities were going to be the major blocker but it’s not been as big a deal as I expected overall. Maybe it’s because the people in the room are the converted ones; the positive proactive ones to try and find solutions.

“Hopefully the funding from the Football Foundation will help. With £1m over two years ring-fenced to help pay for goalposts, hopefully we can try and solve that issue.

“I think the key thing is support for the new things. Giving flexibility to leagues, providing ideas about competition that that might work.

Brooking added: “The main thing is for people not to be worried about it and frightened of the changes. We’re going to try and be sensible and not force too many things on people.  In the end, the lifeblood of the game is the volunteers, the mums and dads and everyone who are running the teams.

“Overall, the majority of the suggestions everyone is supportive of. Now it’s just making sure we deal with that sensitively, understand some of the challenges and, if there are greater concerns about one or two of them, then perhaps we take our time before introducing them. I’d like to feel that we have listened.”

Dan Pope, Club Website editor

If you would like to attend either of this week’s final two roadshows in Nottingham or Bolton, click here for details of how to book a place.


Martin says:

Still no reply or proof for that matter of how Nick and the FA came up with the stats listed in the article above. Seems very funny to me that they claim 70% were in favour of the move to the calendar year birth bias and only 8% were against yet they didn’t put this proposal forward for the vote.
They are now saying the changes will take a long time before we start to see the results. Well I have some facts for you guys. Mini soccer kicked off in England in 1999 for all age groups under ten years old. The likes of Wayne Rooney, Adam Johnson and Joe Hart are all too old at 25 plus to have been involved with mini soccer so just as we start to see the products of the 7 v 7 game come through the FA think now is a good time to start changing things again. Dont believe all the hype and the ‘child friendly’ talk, what they are really after is the money it will generate. More MANDATORY courses and qualifications, more affiliation costs and the list goes on and on. What this country needs is a massive investment in facilities and their maintenance not continuous meddling by people who have no real idea of grassroots football. Read the comments people have posted on this website and then justify your ludicrous statistics if you can!

October 4, 2012 at 22:55

Martin says:

A fantastic reply, obviously written ‘from the heart’ and by somebody truely involved in grassroots youth football. The FA are now spending thousands via their P.R department quoting missleading facts and figures suposedly gathered by Nick Levett during his many roadshows. Well I have had the pleasure of attending quite a few of these events and at each one any negative questions or comments by the audience were simply blanked or ignored. At the last event organised jointly by my two local C.F.A’s when it came to ‘question time’ we were told that the venue was closing for the night and any questions could be made outside in the car park. From what I understand this type of behaviour happened all over the country so as you rightly state ‘hardly a fair and free vote’.

September 29, 2012 at 00:32

Cliff Penning says:

There has been a lot of publicity about the Football Association’s mandatory changes for children’s football as their PR department has kicked into overdrive to promote their new policy to the media, and boy has everyone lapped it up because thanks to these changes England are now going to win the World Cup. Or are they?
The decision to make these changes was based on a democratic vote by the FA’s shareholders. Or was it? The question I would like to know is who are these shareholders, what do they do and what is their experience in coaching children’s football or running junior football clubs? I know for a fact there were plenty of local football associations that were against these changes and those local LFAs that voted accordingly were swiftly admonished by the FA for doing so. I hardly think that constitutes a fair and free vote! I was present at one of the FA’s presentations to promote their new policies and it was delivered with a fait accompli as they were not prepared to listen to the concerns of the coaches and representatives of junior football clubs who attended. There has never been any real consultation with the many children’s football leagues and junior football clubs throughout the country, and the FA’s PR machine has made sure that only the positive comments have been publicised and the negative one’s hidden from the media and the general public. At present there are 7,000 football teams and their associated leagues that are against many of the changes; and this number is growing day by day. It seems very strange that the FA have informed the media that they have not received one negative comment about the new changes. It begs the question who the hell have they been speaking to? Certainly not grass roots football clubs!
So what gives the FA the right to act like a dictatorship and implement all these draconian changes on clubs without any evidence to support the changes, but just a faint hope that it may improve England FC? After all they have a tremendous track record in the management of football. Historically, over the last twenty years they have made some disastrous choices for England Manager and they never seem to learn their lesson. Also who can forget the well managed Wembley Stadium project that over ran its completion date and came in way over budget leaving the FA in a financial mess. And don’t forget the failed World Cup bid, how much did that cost and I’m not just talking about money, I’m also talking about the loss of national pride. The way the FA grovelled to FIFA to obtain their permission to host the event; and the way they were happy to ignore the corruption and prostitute our national sport was embarrassing to say the least. They had the opportunity to stand up for what was right but for political convenience they chose not to. Shame on you FA! Sadly and more recently there is the conspiracy of silence over Hillsborough, which after 23 years a quick apology does not do justice to the 96 people that died and their families. Then there’s their continual inability to control the excesses of the Premier League and the behaviour of many of its players. Well at least I suppose that junior football leagues and clubs will be a lot easier for the FA to control, or will we?
I honestly believe that the FA are only interested in elite football i.e. England FC and that grass roots football is only in existence to provide them with the raw materials to support this strategy. The FA are envious of the success of the Spanish International team and other continental teams and they are using this as the reason as to why we need to change the way we coach our children, but there is no real comparison. Take Spain for example. In Spain they have better weather, which allows them to train longer, more and better local facilities through major investment, thousands more coaches and they invest more in all aspects of their grass roots football. In Spain the best qualified coaches train the children not the adults; and in Spain they play 7 v 7 mini soccer at their junior age groups not 5-a-side football as now proposed by the FA.
Don’t get me wrong, not every idea that comes from the FA is completely bizarre; they do now and again stumble across a good idea. The introduction of 9 v 9 football is one of them and I believe will be a success, unless it is undermined by the disastrous decision to introduce 5 a side football at U7s and U8’s and non-competitive football all the way up to U12s. If they want to promote a policy that reduces the number of children playing football and increases the number of players leaving the sport before they reach senior football, then they have struck gold.
The FA’s new thinking is based on Academic research, what does that mean? Obviously this is done in a classroom using a slide rule. As you go through life you meet quite a few people who have a fantastic academic background but when you ask them to do a simple task like tie their boot laces they struggle.
5-a-side football for U7s and U8s with shorter games on smaller pitches. In theory it sounds good, but let us examine it in more detail. In a 7-a-side mini soccer football team you can sign up to 12 players but with 5-a-side football it is unlikely that you will have more than 8 players in a team. So that will mean up to four players missing out; and don’t think that clubs will run two teams instead of one because they will then have to find additional coaches and meet the additional costs to train them and CRB them. Clubs simply will not be able to afford it. Also if the FA believes that parents will be prepared to travel miles across Lincolnshire to watch 20 minutes of football in which their child may only participate for ten minutes they must be deluded. Then we have the problem of yet another pitch size to contend with, clubs are already struggling to find enough 9 v 9 pitches and now they will be asked to provide four different pitch sizes. Many teams play on fields that are owned by local councils who will be unable to provide the new pitch size meaning there will be a nationwide shortage of pitches. So where will many of these 5-a-side teams play?
Non-competitive football up to U12’s is another strange one. According to the FA their interpretation of skill is technique during the pressure of competition. When all other sports including schools are encouraging competition in the Olympic spirit the FA has decided to move in the opposite direction. They have decided to adopt the PC world position that they do not want winners and losers they would prefer no winners and deferred success for everyone. Again if we come back to simple mathematics players can count and they know when they have won or lost a game of football and when they walk on the pitch they play to win. If players and teams do not have targets and ambitions and are denied the chance to compete they will look for other sports where they can.
Relative age effect is just smoke and mirrors. Summer and August born children are the youngest children of their age group and therefore are more likely to miss out on sporting opportunities due to their size and late development. So the FA has had an amazing idea move the year age groups so that they run from January to December. Wow that means August born babies will be in the middle of their age group, but hang on a minute that means that children born in December will now become the youngest and therefore will be more likely to miss out on sporting opportunities. Or am I missing something, it’s obviously far too academic for my poor brain; after all I only have 10 years’ experience working in children’s soccer.
Then there is the new confusing child friendly fixture format that you will need a slide rule and compass to understand with a season containing three separate leagues and three separate cup competitions that will require someone like Albert Einstein to administrate. The format takes no account of player availability for holidays, bad weather and the all-day cup competitions have been organised at the coldest parts of the year; and they expect the League Committee members to give up a many of their weekends to organise them. This is a definitely a non-starter!
As part of other tinkering with the rules the FA are now suggesting roll-ins instead of throw-ins for the younger teams rather than teaching the children the correct technique to throw the ball back into play. I honestly can’t see what they hope to achieve by this except for producing lots of senior players conceding possession to the opposition due to foul throw-ins because they were not taught correctly when they were younger.
The St Georges complex is the FA’s latest expensive project to feed the FA’s insatiable desire for international success. I must admit it is an amazing complex, but will it deliver the end result, probably not! If you cast your mind back a couple of decades, academies were going to deliver a conveyor belt of talent, which would change the landscape of international football for our nation. So where is all this talent? Where are all the world class players that we were hoping for? Arguably the best player we have at the moment is Wayne Rooney but I think even he would struggle to make the subs bench let alone the first team for many of the top international sides in the world. Now you don’t have to be a mathematician to work out where the problem lies. There are so few English players playing for Premiership teams that England probably has between 100 to 200 players to choose from. Whereas Spain, Germany, Italy, Portugal etc. they have thousands. So obviously the likelihood of uncovering a football superstar is a great deal less with only a two hundred players to choose from as compared to a few thousand.
So where has it all gone wrong? Well from my grass roots front row seat I have seen a tremendous amount of young talent that has been nurtured and developed by some really talented amateur coaches. These budding starlets have soon been snapped up by local academies (usually at a far too young age) where they can be bought or sold like commodities. Eventually, after several years in these academies many of these players emerge as very fit, run of the mill players who struggle to retain possession of the ball. Any players that emerge with any promise that reach the high echelons of the Premier League are usually discarded to the subs bench or the reserves as they don’t have an expensive foreign name.
When England last won the World Cup, children were playing football in the streets and using jumpers for goalposts. Many of the players came from a working class back ground and as children they would not have the luxury of expensive toys. However, what they would have had is a football and possibly little else to do but practice in the streets, very much like the children of Brazil today.
When it comes to investment, football today is very top heavy with the majority of money going to the Premier League and the further down the tree the money gets less. Right at the bottom children’s football clubs scrape by on donations and good will. Until this imbalance is addressed nothing will ever change.

At the moment the FA do not care that they have angered an army of volunteers and coaches who have invested so much of their time over the years to children’s football; and the FA have done it with a big stick. However, I believe that they have now got hold of a tiger by its tail and they had better hold on tight as this tiger has teeth. Junior football clubs are now asking themselves do they need the FA to manage them and I believe the response from many clubs will be overwhelming NO. So unless the FA reconsiders these new policies the majority of junior football clubs within the country might make the decision not to affiliate to their local football associations from the 2013/14 season onwards and possibly not return until there is major change within the FA, both in attitude and accountability. They are supposed to be the custodians of our sport but they act as if they are some Oligarch owner and believe that they can make any changes to our national sport that they wish with complete impunity and can dismiss out of hand the real investors in our national game. We shall see!
The message that the FA are sending out to junior football is that it is junior footballs fault that England haven’t won the world cup in recent years and they have laid the blame firmly and squarely on our volunteer coaches an junior football leagues. However, junior football also has a message to the FA, which is sort your own mess out before you start interfering with children’s football.

Cliff Penning
Birchwood Colts JFC

September 23, 2012 at 23:38

M Wood says:

I am an U8 Coach moving to U9 next season and have a 14 year old son who has played since he was 8 and have enjoyed the thrills, spills and wonderful memories that I will have forever.

I think there are some interesting comments with some varied views using such references to Ajax and Barcelona, making points that Grass Roots Football Clubs do not move the players around and Mr Brooking stating that the Goalkeeper should play outfield.

Rob Bailey earlier stated in this blog “if you keep doing the same things,you get the same results!”. You know what I completely agree! However if I’m not mistaken Academy Football already play non-competitive, so I guess if we introduce this into Grass Roots they will go into decline as well but as least they will be ready for Academy status.

Strange that the Government have just announced the “In It To Win It” campaign in schools to give back the competitive and winning mentality edge. If change is needed it should come from the FA via visiting Coaches to Grass Roots Affiliated Clubs to advise Coaches, like myself, of new ways of thinking and how we can get the best from our players whilst making sure that they have fun.

With regards to parents, the FA should insist that all registrations must be accompanied every year with a Respect Certificate completed online by both (where applicable) Parents/Carers.

There are not enough Goalkeepers and those players that want to excell in this position which is a very unique position in football and played by very patient and brave young people. Mr Brooking wants to play down this position which is what most people have a tendancy to do. It would be interesting to see what Joe Hart did in his younger years considering he is in his early 20′s.

Also the FA should insist that Academy Football should have a minimum of 75% GBR players, and maybe they should play competitive to get used to the winning mentality.

January 3, 2012 at 17:13

M Wood says:

Reducing the size of the goals for u11s is a good idea and maybe the size of the pitch, but reducing the number of players from 11 to 9?, surely this would mean that there would be less children involved in the sport – I don’t think that there would be many more volunteers jumping on board to set up new clubs with the tight restrictions placed on new entrants.

January 3, 2012 at 17:12

M Wood says:

i think the changes are too radical and think that the way it is at the moment is fine it is up to the coaches to get their players passing the ball and working as a team.
more funds should be available to grass roots clubs so fa coaching can be easily funded by the clubs.i also think that professional clubs should have open days for local coaches to observe there acadamy training for help and advice

January 3, 2012 at 17:11

M Wood says:

Sorry but i dont agree with any of the ideas from the FA.

The first one made me laugh as changing from 7 aside to 5 aside will end up coasting the parents more money. We currently have to pay £25 for our pitch and referee for sunday football and this means that having 8 kids we can cover the costs. Mr brooking is all for more players been on the pitch playing and having more time on the ball, how does this happen if i have 4-5 subs just to cover the costs of the pitch etc. Dont think clubs will get any help from the FA funding wise do you ?

We currently play in a under 7 league and this season we have played 12, Won 1,Drew 1 and Lost 10 but i am still for introducing league and cup competions at under 9s as this gives the kids something to aim for and look forward to. Surely this is why we start playing at under 7′s so when it comes to under 9′s the kids have had a couple of years playing and getting ready for the league and cup competions they see there heroes involved in on the TV. I think this will put us back as kids that would start at under 7′s will leave it until under 10′s etc and then they have missed years of playing the game.

I think this is just another effort from the FA to let us know they are there and that they make the decisons, how about helping the clubs and the volunteers that spend there weekends with there children trying to enjoy football.

January 3, 2012 at 17:10

M Wood says:

Give me strength! I coach an U10′s team who this year have the chance to win their division.

Last year at U9′ we finished lower mid table and this year, against roughly 90% of the teams we played last season, we’ve improved immensely.

To take that competitive edge away from the boys, to take away something to aim for, to strive for at the end of the season would be a mistake.

English football has lost it’s winning mentality for one reason and one reason only – the players get paid far, far too much money. Until this gets sorted out, nothing will change.

I love the league structure at U9 and U10 and love mini-soccer. But do I coach my boys to win at all costs? Not on your life!! I take that as an insult to me, my assistant manager and most of all my boys who work their socks off in training trying to improve their skills. I coach them to win by playing football, by learning to pass the ball and move into space, by giving the boy in possession at least two options to pass to whether that means running away from him or coming to him. I coach them to recognise a good pass, I coach them how to control the ball, to improve their first touch. I never criticise them, always encourage.

To take away league tables and trophies for them all until they are 13 or 14, well, I think that a lot of them would have lost interest long before then!

Pro academies take boys far too early. I had two taken away last season by Mansfield Town academy. It didn’t have the funding this season to carry on and the two lads came back to me. What was the point in taking them to places as far away as Hartlepool for ten minutes of football?? Neither of them enjoyed it.

I genuinely love coaching my team and I would do it whatever changes the FA make. But this just seems like a step too far to me. A team in our League won their first game for two seasons only last Sunday. I was absolutely chuffed for them. To see their reaction to winning was a joy to see. You don’t want to eradicate that surely!?

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the coaching and this includes the management of the parents. I believe that it’s my responsibility to get across to the parents that it’s imperitive that they encourage their boys at ALL times. Negative comments only serve to discourage the boys and this is something that I always try to convey to my parents.

I could go on all day. Please listen to the coaching community before deciding on these changes. We’re the ones giving up our time for the game we all love and care about.

January 3, 2012 at 17:08

M Wood says:

I’m sorry but this is complete & utter nonsense Mr Brooking! If you want to change youth football or grass roots football why dont doesn’t the FA do the only thing that would change it for the better which is ask the coaches & people in & around this kind of football because they know what needs changing not people in the FA offices behind desks who are totally out of touch!!

You say more non competative matches will help player development for the better, well as a coach myself at under 9′s level I have to say this is nonsense!!! You can look at just about any other sport & the kids involved compete against eachother to win, how can this be negative? Yes it must always be fun & enjoyable & children should improve as individuals & as team players but along with this players will naturally develop a winning mentality so why should this be ignored?

Ive read comments thats say they agree with Mr Brooking because it puts pressure on coaches to go for the win, parents are shouting for the win which is not helping the players. Well I say if thats the case the coaches & parents are to blame in those instances because its up to the coach to do the right thing & they should do whats best for the kids in the game & if his parents are like that then he needs to grow a backbone & tell them to pack it in.

Perhaps instead of blaming the lack of success on in the english game youth football & making changes blindly to how we play our games they should look at educating coaches & giving those who make youth football all about winning better direction so this is not the case!!!

My kids love to play & also love to win but they also enjoy it just as much if they loose which in my opinion is down to the way they are taught & how we in our club teach the kids how to approach & look at football win or loose.

There is nothing wrong with competative games & leagues, the only problem I see if you think its wrong is poor coaching & giving the kids the wrong outlook on football. Sort this out but leave our game at our level alone Mr Brooking!!

Chris Bird, Mansfield.

January 3, 2012 at 16:39

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