The FA has took a huge step towards reforming youth football in England as FA shareholders voted 679 to 99 in favour of plans that will improve the standards of youth football players across the country.
The reforms are mainly targetted at changing the way the game is played in terms of numbers and sizes of pitches throughout under 7s to under 12s.
Under 7s and 8s will play 5-a-side whilst under 11s and 12s will play 9-a-side on appropriate sized pitches. Under 9s and 10s will remain in the same 7-a-side format. The season will also last a shorter period of time, away from the adult August-May format.
Criticisms have been raised over the money and time it will take to develop these pitches but Nick Levett, the FA’s development manager for youth football believes we will soon see the benefits. He told the Telegraph: ““We want there to be less pressure on kids.
“There needs to be a climate change – this is kids’ football, not the World Cup final.
“This is about grass-roots football but also a 15 to 20-year programme for long-term player development, ultimately to help produce players to support the professional game and England team,’’ Levett also said.
Levett also explained some recent examples of its success before taking it nationwide. He also told the Telegraph: ““It will mean more touches, more shots and more dribbles for young players and therefore improving the kids’ technique.
“The Mid-Herts League told me that they did nine v nine for the first year at under-11s and said they ‘couldn’t believe we ever did 11 v 11 on full-sized adult pitches’.
“Bolton and Bury District Junior League started it at 11s and 12s and had feedback from clubs and kids to say ‘we want to do it for another year’. They’ve taken it on to under-13s as well [as in Spain]. It won’t be a surprise if in five years’ time a lot of leagues are doing a similar thing.
“Bolton, Bury and District League found that when people came together at under-13s, having done two years of either the 11 v 11 route or nine v nine, the teams who finished in the top six of the league were the ones who’d gone the nine v nine route and had developed better techniques and game understanding.
“The Surrey Youth League is a massive league, 500+ teams. They’ve gone to nine v nine for the first time and they’ve seen a massive improvement for the kids. Chelmer and Crouch League in Essex were a little league who decided to run nine v nine.
“Another big league in the same area in Essex have started doing nine v nine because they were losing so many teams to Chelmer and Crouch.’’
Other things encouraged in the reform include dropping parent’s “win at all costs” attitude and more time on the ball for youngsters to develop their technical ability.
The Telegraph’s Henry Winter sums it up in his article here.