In 2012, The Football Association ratified some major changes to youth football which were recommended by the Youth Development Review. The recommendations, 25 in total, were all based on feedback and research from all across England.
While the proposals covered several key areas of the game, the ratified changes were narrowed down to two main proposals: competition strategy and player pathway.
The goal of these changes is to make the sport more enjoyable for children while improving development.
What Changes Were Made?
The Youth Development Review changes, which were phased in at the start of the 2013-2014 season, are designed to make youth football better for all those involved – both kids and adults.
The “win-at-all-costs” mentality has been replaced with an approach that nurtures development, allowing adults to help children hone their skills in a more upbeat learning environment.
Kids also said they wanted more touches and a pitch that was better suited to their age. The FA listened to the feedback, and implemented some beneficial changes for youth players.
What changes are we seeing?
One of the most significant changes is in the player pathway. Traditionally, kids jumped from a 7v7 game to an 11v11 game pretty quickly. Transitioning from a 7v7 to an 11v11 format can be difficult and frustrating for some young players, which defeats the whole purpose of youth football.
A new 9v9 format has been introduced to help kids transition from 7v7 to 11v11.
From the 2014-2015 season onward, games will be played using the following formats:
- Under-7s and Under-8s: 5v5
- Under-9s and Under-10s: 7v7
- Under-11s and Under-12s: 9v9
- Under-13s+: 11v11
Some leagues introduced these changes before they were required, which moved the process along more quickly.
With fewer players on the field, kids get more touches of the ball, which helps them develop their technique. They also get more dribbling opportunities and more chances to shoot on goal. All of these changes allow kids to get more enjoyment out of the game.
The FA also implemented new changes to the Competition Pathway, which allows kids to better develop their skills without feeling pressured by adults and parents.
The competition aspect hasn’t been eliminated – kids still play with the intention of winning – but The FA wanted to move away from having adults screaming at children for making mistakes and losing the game.
To prevent this from happening, league tables will no longer be published for Under-9s competitions and lower.
Rather than having one long eight-month season with a single trophy as the prize, there will be three “mini seasons” with a chance to win a trophy at each one’s end.
The ultimate goal with all of these changes is to allow kids to play football without having to adhere to the same rules adults play by. A child-friendly approach allows kids to really enjoy the game while developing their skills to become better players in the future.
The FA will be working with the Football Foundation to help fund the implementation of 9v9 goalposts. Grants equal to 50% of the total costs are available.