News & Updates

FA changes to youth football – what’s in store?

The structure of English youth football will be changing from the start of the 2013/14 season.

That is when the FA’s new youth development proposals will start to become reality. The changes have two main strands:

(i) a revised player pathway
(ii) a flexible, child-centred approach to competitive football

So what will the changes mean for your club, team or league?

Youth football change #1: Revised player pathway

Key features:

* New 5v5 format for U7s and U8s
* New 9v9 format for U11s and U12s
* New formats phased in for U7s & U11s only in 2013/14 season
* Mandatory for all age-groups from 2014/15 season
* U9s and U10s continue to play 7v7 and U13s upwards continue to play 11-a-side
* Age-appropriate pitch and goal sizes (see table below)

190Key benefits:

* More touches of the ball
* More goals and scoring attempts
* More one-v-one encounters and dribbling attempts
* Leads to increased enjoyment
* Helps develop technical skills
* Provides better preparation for 11-a-side football

Youth football change #2: Child-friendly approach to competition

Key features:
* Traditional league table season to be phased out for all kids up to U11s
* Phased introduction of flexible competition starting 2013/14 (see table below)
* Seasons will be split into thirds
* Each third to feature developmental matches and trophy events
* Trophy events will increase in duration as kids get older (see table below)
* Short-term burst of competition for even youngest kids (U7s & U8s)
* Parents and coaches encouraged to drop a win-at-all-costs approach

Key benefits:
* Puts emphasis on learning & development
* Puts kids at heart of football process
* Reduces adult-driven pressure on kids to win
* Winning & losing still at heart of game
* Makes more matches competitive for more kids
* Leagues will ensure trophy events are evenly matched
* Teams can be moved between mini-seasons to match ability
* Reduces likelihood of 18-0 drubbings – no good for anyone

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.


Donna Yeo says:

Can an u12 player play for an u 13 team next season 2014/15?

April 13, 2014 at 20:48

Michelle White says:

My son is currently playing in an under 9 team but has been told he will have to move down next season. We have been told it goes by the year he is in school, is there any way he can stay with the team he trains and plays with.

April 12, 2014 at 11:22

Jamie Polak says:

Please can you confirm the maximum number of coaches permitted at a u10′s girls match, in the Nottinghamshire FA? Would you please clarify, that all coaches are required to visibly show there FA card to spectators? Finally, would you please confirm coaches should remain in the technical area at the half way line and not walk the full length of the sidelines, to the corners?
Kind regards,


April 7, 2014 at 07:43

Brad smith says:

My son currently plays for under 10′s but he is under 9′s. Once the rest of the team goes to first year of comp and he will be in last year of juniors will he still be able to play for the age above or will he have to play for his age group.

April 6, 2014 at 21:45

Brad smith says:

Hi – my son is currently playing for U10, however is correct age group is U9. Next season can he move to U11 or does he have to drop back to is correct age group???

April 6, 2014 at 08:01

steve says:

Great that we are doing this but I have to say 40 x 30 yds for even 5 v 5 takes away one thing not mentioned – space. If you look at wanting to give players time on the ball to a) control b) make accurate passes and get their heads up to look first to see what options are available – we really need to think about simplifying even more. It’s amazing when you give younger players more time how their confidence soon increases along with their techniques. As a level 3 coach – I applaud the new guidelines but think we should go further in allowing players to develop techniques for the long term from an earlier age – or we will be seeing the typical ‘Hot Potato’ syndrome that leaves us nothing but chaos on the pitch when players are new to the game. My opinion anyway! Steve

April 4, 2014 at 09:17

Sam powell says:

Surely encouraging children to be competitive TO AN EXTENT is good as it helps the wins boost their confidence all the more
Thank you

April 2, 2014 at 20:45

james Rees says:

My son currently plays for under 10′s but he is under 9′s. Once the rest of the team goes to first year of comp and he will be in last year of juniors will he still be able to play for the age above or will he have to play for his age group.

April 2, 2014 at 17:40

Darren says:

Are players allowed to play a year up next season. For example a u9 playing for an under 10 team. Many thanks

March 31, 2014 at 21:53

Stephen king says:

Could you answer a question for me please. I currently manage an u11 side. I’ve been approached about a younger player signing for me next season. He’s currently u10 this season but will be moving up to the same format next season with him moving to 9v9. Obviously I will move up to u12, he will be u11s. With him playing 9 aside would it be possible for me to sign him next season?

March 24, 2014 at 13:10

peter knights says:

My son currently plays up a year in the under 8 , can he still play there next season or does he have to comeback to his right age ?

March 23, 2014 at 13:19

Craig Stamford says:

In relation to 2014/2015 season just looking for clarification regarding can a under 11 player play for a under 12 team at match level.

March 20, 2014 at 21:26

Emma Smith says:

Please can you clarify if a player has been offered a 6 week trial by a professional club, can the player still play in any games for his sunday club
thank you

March 20, 2014 at 07:55

Chris carr says:

For season 2014/15,canan under12player, play up a year at under13s?


March 16, 2014 at 11:51

Andy Rivers says:

Good evening please could you clarify the following:
I am currently managing an under 11 football team playing 9 x 9.
Last season I had a player that played up a year and following the changes he was no longer eligible to play for us due to his age and the fact that we went to play 9 x 9 and he was not old enough.
This obviously caused a lot of upset for the young boy being told that he could no longer play for the side that he had been an important part of previously.
My question is that he is now of the age where he will be playing 9 x 9 next season the same format as my team is now and I want him to rejoin the team and play for us again.
will he now be allowed to play up a year and rejoin our team playing 9 x 9.
We will be a team made up of under 12′s and he will be under 11.

Thank you


March 12, 2014 at 22:40

Andrew Hooper says:

I manage hoddesdon u12 Reds and we play mid herts friendly league, all teams lay in different color GROuPs as I prefer to discribe it but I keep hearing the word divisions which for one I feel there shouldn’t be divisions described between childred, My main point is it is none competative, we played blue group won many close games and move to yellow where by other managers who keep talking divisions congratulated me for being promoted which would then make it competative and could change my way of thinking which they obviously haven’t and still want to view it as a competative league which it is not, I responded that we have been moved to another group and will be playing new teams which is good for the Boys. Hope this all makes sence
Andrew Hooper
Hoddesdon u12 Reds

March 11, 2014 at 07:23

David Bishop says:

Is it true that under the new format the mini-soccer season will be 26 weeks instead of the Adult 9 months

February 14, 2014 at 07:19

g rushton says:

My son has just been told that he and 2other players are to only be used as substitutes as and when the manager sees fit. The manager said he might only play one game in 4 and only has a substitute but we have also been told he has to pay the same money as everybody else .i just want to know if the manager has the right to do this

February 6, 2014 at 17:23

dave brocklehurst says:

my boy plays in an under 9 team and wears glasses his he allowed to wear them

February 3, 2014 at 17:27

D needs says:

My son currently plays up a year in the under 8 , can he still play there next season or does he have to comeback to his right age ?

January 31, 2014 at 20:00

Chris Skinner says:


I manage a team that plays u-12 9v9 football in Camden, North London.

Could anyone please confirm / deny a recent FA rule change that goal difference does not apply when deciding positions in a league table for this age group – U-12′s.

Yours Sincerely,
Chris Skinner,
Queen’s Park Sharks U-12′s,
Camden & Regents Park Youth League.

January 20, 2014 at 15:12

P. head says:

Perhaps you should join a club that suits your needs better. There are loads out there, good luck with finding one that suits u

December 29, 2013 at 20:48

J delaney says:

We can see the changes technically could mean more children can now enjoy the game of football. However in practice this has not been the case.
The 50% minimum play time on the pitch for all players [our are in the U10] is being viewed, by our club, as a maximum play time for the less able players. The less able sit on the side lines whether they are playing a team below them in the league and even if their own team is winning hands down.
The rules state 50% ‘where possible’. We as parents and having read all the FA documents on fare play and equality assumed that ‘where possible ‘ meant if a player is injured, turns up late etc, this is not the case. The ‘ where possible’ loop hole is used as an excuse not to play some players as much as their more adept team mates. We have twins one more able than the other. The more able plays all or 75% of every match, the less able 50% of every match.
We have been told this is fare according to FA rules.
Other managers adapt the rules to their players, allowing all team players an equal time on the pitch over a period of games so that no-one is demoralised. This , however, is down to the good will of a fare manager not because this is part of the rules.
Our team are still playing with a ‘win at all costs’ mentality, something we understand the FA are trying to stamp out.

December 13, 2013 at 22:20

Mahmood Raza says:

after the see this page i have improve my football knowledge.its very good information for youth coaches.I am a school football coach and i organize a football tournament for U-12 and U-17 boys in coming January 2013. I want to more information for youth coaching.


December 6, 2013 at 06:27

Mark Phillips says:

I think the one area that needs addressing is when the age group jumps fom u14s to u16s. My son who is August born will next season have to play against boys who are nearly 2 years older than him, if you also throw in the puberty aspect it literally becomes boy against man overnight. This is not only dangerous in my opinion its also going to be extremely demoralising. Why not allow boys who are born between 1st Feb and 31st Aug be allowed to play in the younger age group if there is no u15 league in their area.

December 4, 2013 at 12:24

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