Kids' football is changing...

New proposals to develop better players and help more children “fall in love with football”

Back in 2010, The Football Association launched The FA Youth Development Review, looking at 25 recommendations based on research and feedback on youth football from
across England. These proposals covered everything from developing the player pathway for our youngest players all the way through to mandatory release of players for international fixtures. After listening to the views of the grassroots game and the key factors which needed to be developed, two main proposals were made that will affect grassroots
football – player pathway and competition strategy. These positive changes have been put in place to improve enjoyment, fun and development of young players, allowing more touches on a better proportioned pitch with an increase of involvement in the game as a whole.

The changes within The FA’s Youth Development Review, which will be phased in from the start of the 2013-14 season, will make youth football better for everyone involved.

More after the break

The changes are being made to bring in a modern, child-friendly approach to youth football, challenging the win-at-all-costs mentality that is stifling development and enjoyment for young people. Working together with a proactive attitude, the adults involved can help develop a better learning environment for young people that puts their needs at the centre of the process.

So what are the main changes?

The New Player Pathway
This will see a journey for young people that builds their learning and development as they head towards the adult game. In the past there has been a tendency to rush children towards the 11v11 game. So, instead of jumping from seven-a-side football straight to the 11v11 game, which has been done previously, a new 9v9 format will be introduced, which will gradually begin to form part of the New Player Pathway. 9v9 football will become
mandatory for Under-11s leagues from next season, with those teams then becoming the first at Under-12 level to play 9v9 the season after.

Then from season 2013-14, the games will be played as follows:

5v5 Under-7s

7v7 Under-8s to Under-10s

9v9 Under-11s

11v11 Under-12s+

From season 2014-15:

5v5 Under-7s and Under-8s

7v7 Under-9s to Under-10s

9v9 Under-11s to Under-12s

11v11 Under-13s+

Some leagues have already adopted the final structure two seasons before  it becomes
mandatory. It is expected that 9v9 will become a more popular format for young players from the 2012-13 season, such is the demand. The smaller versions of the game enable players to have more touches of the ball to develop technique, more dribbling opportunities, more shots on goal and to score more goals. All that means one thing –
more enjoyment in playing football.

Feedback from children was that they play football to get involved and touch the ball. Putting them on full-size pitches at the age of ten was not what they wanted or enjoyed.

Ultimately, The FA and all those involved in the game want to see more young children playing football.

The New Competition Pathway
In addition to the changes to the player pathway, a new, modern and child-friendly approach has been developed that builds competition as players get older. The New
Competition Pathway dismisses the notion that there is such a thing as ‘non-competitive’ football. In every children’s match, even with U7s, the two teams want to try their best to win the game. However, if the plan is to develop technically proficient, creative and decision-making players, then having a gang of adults standing round a pitch screaming and shouting at the young players if they make a mistake is unlikely to be productive.

So from next season, no league tables will be published for Under-9s competitions and below, and there will be no single eight-month season with one trophy as the outcome. This enables three trophy events per ‘mini-season’ to take place and allow recognition of winners where appropriate, but without the added pressure of three points and goal difference on the children in every game for 26 weeks of the year.

This new policy will move up the age groups to include Under-10s leagues in 2014-15, and Under-11s leagues in 2015-16. Nick Levett, National Development Manager (Youth Football) said, “These changes are about doing what is right for young people and putting the learner at the heart of a child-centred version of the game, rather than impose adult formats and values onto children. They are simply based on developing better players and helping more children fall in love with the wonderful game of football.”

9v9 Goals Funding
The FA has teamed up with the Football Foundation to provide funding towards the installation of 9v9 goalposts, with grants of 50 per cent towards the total cost being made available.

The Football Foundation are working closely with County FAs to identify the needs and sites that will benefit. For more information and to find out when 9v9 football will be available in your area, please contact your County Football Association or visit

For further information about The FA Youth Development Review, including pitch sizes and
downloadable booklets, visit

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