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

June 2014 update – youth football progress report

If you have any questions regarding the new structure to youth football in England, please read our interview with the FA’s Nick Levett published in June 2014, which provides a progress report on the changes to youth football and answers a number of frequently-asked questions.

In particular, for all those people asking whether kids can ‘play up a year’ from the start of the 2014/15 season, all will be revealed in the article!

Youth football changes get “positive” feedback – Nick Levett (June 2014)


D Langley says:

Hello Ted

My, you are an angry man aren’t you? I think the FA made a video about coaches and parents like you some years ago. Google Ray Winstone FA Respect Video.

I didn’t say my son’s team lost 8-0 and were high fiving etc. They lost 2-0 to a very good team with whom they had had some fantastic games with over the previous 2 years, winning some, losing some and drawing a couple. They came off the pitch sad, but we as parents reminded them of the positives they’d achieved in getting past 30+ other teams to the final. What do you think we should have done?

I ought to put you out of your misery by letting you know that my son and daughter have indeed achieved success at football, cricket and gymnastics.

In terms of the small amount of time I spend here, all I’ve tried to do is offer a bit of support to people who’ve had similar experiences. Perhaps we should count ourselves fortunate that we’ve not been so unlucky as to encounter a coach like yourself who, if some of the foaming-at-the-mouth rants you’ve posted here are a reflection of the way you interact with people, shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near developing children.

October 24, 2014 at 17:43

Ted says:

I really promised myself I would not engage myself again but you have confirmed what a sad sap you are by sarcastically trying to highlight my ‘ spilling mistake. Anyway he-ho here we go again.
You state that in your experience the 8year olds your son played with were only dissapointed for 5 minutes after being humiliated 8-0 and that after 5 minutes they were doing ‘high fives’ and whistling Dixie all the way home.
I can guarantee that your son will never achieve any real success at football because he has probably inherited your lack of passion and competitiveness which is essential in todays game and is often a result of the pathetic policies adopted by the last government in creating no winners or losers at school sports days.
You even have the front to suggest that I become a part time social worker or psychoanalyst and take all useless ,disinterested boys in the squad and laise with all their teachers in an effort to find out why they stare at seagulls while the other team scores. You must work in the public sector to have stupid views like this.
On a final note, I notice that you seem to spend most evenings on this forum knocking anyone who dissagrees with your leftie rantings – you must have a season ticket and lacking excitement in your life.
Lets call it a day and let some other people express their views.

October 22, 2014 at 21:28

D Langley says:

Hello Ted.

Firstly I suggest you re-read my post. I didn’t say that *I* “know” more than you. I stated that perhaps you claim to know more than the FA who have made these changes. Do you know more than the FA who have made these changes?

Secondly, part of the changes were aimed at avoiding mismatches such as the ones you mention. Perhaps you should have a word with your league. My experience was that a group of U8s, having lost a final, are disappointed for about 5 minutes and then are back to normal. Perhaps they are setting an example to us.

Thirdly part of your responsibility as a coach is to get those children engaged and involved. If they are unwilling to learn and disruptive then you need to work with their parents/guardians and even teachers if necessary. I would have thought having such vast experience, you would be adept at dealing with this. Why not find yourself a coaching mentor who will help you with these issues?

As you know nothing about my son – but have chosen to project your views of three children you know on to him and some of the other children here – I’ll tell you that he is a good player, fast, intelligent with good touch. He attends regular soccer camps, has been invited to two Player Development Centres and gets good reports. Unfortunately I didn’t schmooze enough with his coach and his wife and made the mistake of raising my concerns about how the team was being run in a constructive way. My son was the fourth to leave in less than a year – and this from a team that was very good as well.

I have to say that you describing a child as “useless” says a more about you than it says about the children.

October 21, 2014 at 12:40

Ted says:

Continued – Got cut off in my prime.
We have 3 kids in our squad who are not only useless, they are unwilling to learn and are disruptive to the kids who try so hard every weekend. They spend all the game chatting to each other and last week two of them stood pointing to a seagull while the other team scored making it 9-1 to the opposition.
I would welcome the benefit of yourprofound wisdom in how you would resolve this problem?

October 20, 2014 at 18:54

Ted says:

Final word on this Mr Langley. It appears I do no more than you having managed 3 junior teams in the last 5yrs.
1. You state that winning is secondary to having fun- perhaps you can tell me what fun there is in getting humiliated 8-0 or perhaps your kids are brought up with no pride.
2. As regards having kids in the squad who are totally not interested and spe

October 20, 2014 at 18:45

D Langley says:

Yes, Ted, of course kids like to win. But it’s not all about winning. It’s about them having fun and keeping them involved in the game so that they become the best they can be. Perhaps you know better than them but that’s what the FA is trying to achieve with this structure, but it’s up to coaches and parents to see the philosophy through. I can’t see anyone here talking about their kids talking and staring at the sky?

October 20, 2014 at 12:39

Ted says:

Come on all you wishy washy liberals – wake up! Junior football is not a creche. Kids actually want to win the bloody game – its not a social event. Kids love to win and if all their hard work during a match is undermined by other kids standing around chatting to each other about Minecraft or staring at the sky, the best players will find another club.
All you parents that turn up with little Jimmy and start whingeing when he doesnt get a full game should do something about it yourself and take him down the park and help him play the game before you start screwing it up for all the other kids.

October 19, 2014 at 21:23

D Langley says:

To those who are unhappy that their children aren’t being treated fairly, being left on the side lines and not being given enough game time – find the strength to leave the club and tell the coach why you are leaving. As parents the power is in our hands. They’ll soon need those “not good enough” kids when there are injuries, illnesses and holidays. Give the “win-at-all-costs” coaches the response they deserve – a lack of resources. They’ll get the message.

I would also record your decision with the club, the league you’re playing in and the affiliated Football Association. Let the weight of evidence gather.

Being involved in junior football is not the be-all and end. If you can’t find a club that will treat kids fairly, give them equal game time and develop the weaker players you’re better off not “making up the numbers.” Rob Eaton is right on the money with his comments.

It makes me laugh when they marginalise players who have development yet to come and then start whinging about academies taking their better players.

October 15, 2014 at 12:09

em says:


my son plays for an under 11 club, yesterday he turned out for a match and him and another boy didn’t get on the pitch at all. Can they do this?


October 13, 2014 at 08:57

Anthony Milnes says:

My 11 yrs old son plays for an FA chartered club if he trials for a professional club (6 weeks) can he still train and play for his club and school during that 6 week period, the profession club are saying no?

October 9, 2014 at 19:57

j johnson says:

My son has played for a team for 5 years and now finds he’s started as a sub each week and ends as a sub, he was very confidant but now has lost belief in himself, this week the manager lost his card, which we were notified only 14 hrs before the match. Which meant he couldn’t play. The manager apoligisied.

The culture has changed because they’ve gone up a league, and one coach told me if they want a player to leave they start them as sub each week. This contradicts the Respect code, which says football should be played for the enjoyment of the children, not a win at all costs. The Mangers and coachs want to win at all costs, even at the risk of damaging a childs conifidance.

September 28, 2014 at 21:38

john says:

As a coach, is there any specific protocol for dropping a child from football team even after that child has played for 5 years. Do i need to give Reasons for dropping, and is there any comeback if FA or parents are not happy?.

September 27, 2014 at 11:32

Joe soldinger says:

JOE IS A VERY GOOD GOALKEPER BUT CAN ALSO PLAY ON THE Atacking midfield Role also strike and center midfield but is best in goal

September 24, 2014 at 16:10

Stuart Grindle says:

I wonder if you could help me. My son is playing u7s football but he is not 6 before 31st August.
He has trained with these boys for nearly a year and has made some close friends. He does not stand out as being younger. The team that he trains with has started to play in local league matches and a photo of the team was posted on a social media website following their last game. I noticed in the line up at least two players that are not 7 and one of them, I know, has his birthday after my sons. I am now confused as to the rules regarding eligibility and/or if the team can bend the rules if they are short for a match.
I really need to know if he can play as if not I will have to decide whether or not he will continue with this team.

September 22, 2014 at 06:38

Steve says:

Hello, I am a coach (one of four) at my sons club. I am told by the manager that the rules state that you can only have 2 coaches on the opposite sides to the parents in a game. Is this correct?

September 17, 2014 at 12:31

Rob Eaton says:

No child will learn anything standing on the line. Any decent coach will try to improve any
player whatever their ability.Any coach that drops a child of 9 especially when its non competitive cant be much of a coach otherwise they would try to improve the kids that need help not just get rid of them,that’s the whole point of coaching kids not to win things just to make yourself look good.
All that is wrong with youth football in this country.As i have found as coach when you try to do things properly and have successes the win at all cost coaches do everything they can to ruin you and your team then try to take all your players.

September 12, 2014 at 22:58

c.atherton says:

“my son plays for a local under 14 football team every single week he never starts for the team but usually comes on after about 20 minutes this is starting to demoralize him, is this fair and is this allowed . THANKYOU

September 11, 2014 at 09:32

Edwin says:

Hi my son is 9 years old he’s played for his team for the last 5 years(he was one of the first players to in the team) . The coach has got some new payers in from a different club that’s folded and dropped my son down into a new team he has formed with kids that have never played football before. My son is now hartbroken and thinking of giving up the game…. Is this acceptable behaviour from the coach and is he aloud to do this to the children??? Many thanks Edwin

September 8, 2014 at 10:50

Rob says:

Hi my daughter played for a U 12 girls team last season and went to sign on for the u13this season but has been rejected for being 18 days too young is there anything I can do.

September 6, 2014 at 16:08

Wendy Robinson says:

Please can you advise I have a son who is 7 yrs
Old and signed on for a local team.
What are the rules regarding switching to another team are there any penalties/monies

August 30, 2014 at 14:26

Phil says:

Hi, my son is nearly 9 years old and has been playing for his football team for nearly 3 years. All of a sudden the coach has taken on 2 new players and dropped my son. He is distraught and heart broken. Is this allowed?

Any feedback is appreciated

August 29, 2014 at 21:09

Katie says:

My daughter is 9 on the 8th September she has been playing with her team for 6 months and the rules have now changed and they are saying she can’t play with them as it’s now and under 11 s team there us nt another team she can play in only the minions team which ate 4.5 and 6 is there anyway she can play with them this o ming season

August 27, 2014 at 11:44

Eddie says:

Hi I have a lad who wants to sign for my team but plays on a sunday already for another team from another league i ust wanted to clarify is this possible?.

August 25, 2014 at 11:09

Daniel says:

Hi my son is 7 years old but wants to play with his brother team that is under 9s is this allowed

August 19, 2014 at 11:30

azzu victor says:

my lad 12 yrs want to Change from a Team to another Team but his Manager would nt allow him.. but talking about other potical issues like ..not allowed….
Pls telling me if there is any law of seasons when he can Play for a Team before leaving and not indulging any palnelties or bills from old Team?Remember ,he is only 12 yrs but not a professional

August 18, 2014 at 09:20

D Langley says:

Hi Andy – hope you don’t mind me chipping in. Getting involved in organised junior football isn’t the be all and end all for your lads at this stage. If you can’t find a club which will nurture them, give them equal playing time and doesn’t care about winning a few plastic trophies, they’re better off honing their skills away from that environment. I don’t know where you live but if possible I would recommend looking at regular soccer camps. We’re lucky where I live in the West Midlands in that we have Wolves and WBA offering such camps and regular sessions in term time. In my view the kids are better off being taught by professional coaches who do it for a living rather than taking pot luck with some of the “coaches” out there.

August 8, 2014 at 10:38

Andy says:

Hi, I wonder if you could help. I have a 6 year old and 8 year old boys who have just expressed an interest in playing football and training regularly each week, they are not particularly good but want to train regularly to aquire the skills. Our local junior football teams are not interested in them training with their squads as even at this young age they seem to have written them off already as not being good enough. So now I am stuck with two boys wanting to play, but the junior football system not supporting them where we live. I thought football was supposed to be accessible and fun for kids at this age particularly as kids develop at different speeds. But it all seems to be about winning already. Any advice will be most welcome but the football system may already have turned off my children.

August 6, 2014 at 14:14

Jon Lear says:

I wonder if you could help me. I have been coaching a group of boys who will be playing u7s football in the upcoming season. One of the players is my son and I have just been made aware that he is not allowed to play as he is not 6 before 31st August.
He has trained with these boys for nearly a year and has made some close friends. He does not stand out as being younger and ability wise he is far ahead of many of the other players. He has been training once a week with Everton.
I really need to know if he can play as if not I will have to decide whether or not to run the team next year if he is unable to play.
Many thanks

August 4, 2014 at 22:33

Tyler says:

Hi can you tell me my son is age 9 yrs and he’s been asked to play for a team that is a year older someone told me he can only pay one season is that true x

July 30, 2014 at 13:46

D Langley says:

Thanks Lewis and well said. I think the worst thing for me was that the coach made all the right noises about developing the players without pressure but then come tournament day, his actions contradicted with his words. My lad is a good player, not the strongest but willing, with a good touch and pace. He spent his first season in goal but then wanted to play out so he is a little naive positionally (he’s 8 years old so funnily enough he would be!).

He never let the team down, even when he played as a defender. Defending and tackling was not his strongest suit but he would bring the ball out from the back coolly and I think the coaches were far more nervous than he ever was.

The team got to a final which was drawn 0-0 and my lad and the other sub didn’t even get a minute, despite the lads being out on their feet towards the end of the game and in need of fresh legs. So the jubilant coaches celebrated their penalty shoot out win and my lad cried all the way home because the coach had lied to him and said he would get on. No one gets a second chance to do that to my son.

July 28, 2014 at 11:41

Lewis Evans says:

Quoting D Langley . . . .

“Unfortunately there are some coaches who think winning meaningless tournaments with pound shop trophies and medals constitutes success. Success is keeping a group of 9/10 kids together for a number of years and seeing them all develop, learn to value each other and depend on each other.”

Playing a 10 minute tournament game teaches the kids what and helps the coaches with even less.

Arrange two or three friendly matches where you can move boys around in different positions, learn how they react to situations and look to develop your coaching sessions to help them with those situations.

July 25, 2014 at 14:18

D Langley says:

David Bracewell, Vanessa, Ms Walker, G Rushton and others. No, it’s not right that your children should be treated like that, I dare say by such coaches who are whinging here about the positive changes in the guise of poorly set out streams of consciousness.

Ultimately, the power is in the hands of the parents and players – if your child is treated badly, do what I did, vote with your feet and make sure that everyone – including the coach – knows why you’ve left – word will get around!

There are many coaches out there who do treat *all* their players well and will give everyone a fair crack of the whip and equal playing time.

Unfortunately there are some coaches who think winning meaningless tournaments with pound shop trophies and medals constitutes success. Any fool can get 7 really good players together and do that. Success is keeping a group of 9/10 kids together for a number of years and seeing them all develop, learn to value each other and depend on each other.

Players progress at different rates and the so called stars at age 7/8/9 can easily fade and be outshone a few years later – likewise the players who struggle early on, if kept involved and engaged with the game, can suddenly spark and become really good players.

July 22, 2014 at 09:57

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