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Youth Football Reforms Gain Crucial Backing

Wed 4th Apr 2012 | Football Governance

Members of The FA Council have voted positively on critical future proposals for Youth Development in England.

Amongst the agenda items, FA Council were presented with proposals focusing on the phased introduction of small-sided football through to U12s level, whilst also introducing flexible competition formats at the U11s stage of development.

Currently U12s play on full-size 11v11 pitches, in full size goals. The plan is by 2014-15 season to introduce 9v9 football at U12s, joining U11s football. The FA also plans to make U8s and U7s football 5v5 rather than the current 7v7 format.

Nick Levett, National Development Manager (Youth Male & Mini Soccer), who has been leading the proposals said: “The best thing for me about 9v9 is simply the involvement in the game for the children playing.”

Consultation has taken place across the country, with over 125 events engaging leagues, clubs, local authorities and County FAs, whilst over 50 focus groups with children and 4,000 coaches and parents have been engaged.

“Whilst we might have some short-term challenges with arranging the right size goal posts for the children to defend and to find some varied solutions to use of pitches, if this is in the best interests of young people then I strongly believe it is the way forward,” Levett continued.

“Just after Christmas I went to watch some grassroots games and decided to count the amount of touches that both right backs got in a U12s match when the boys played 11v11. The home team right-back touched the ball twice in 15 minutes and then got substituted, the away team right back got six touches in 30 minutes – two of those were throw ins, two were tackles and two were big kicks up the pitch when the manager shouted at him to ‘get rid of it’.

“The game after was a 9v9 match for U11s and the difference was stark – I lost count of the touches. Everyone was involved, there were players doing overlaps and supporting ahead of the ball because their team-mate was in the same postcode as them and the best thing was constant involvement.

“The players were never really two passes from the ball which meant there were lots more decisions to make, yet still to time for them to pause and breathe.

“Feedback from the players and coaches about 9v9 seems to suggest they all want more of this.”

The next stage in the process is for The FA Shareholders to vote formally on the issue next month.

 Posted by: Aaron Gourley

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