Support for changes as football develops
ENGLISH football has finally been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century after the governing body announced a massive shake-up to the grass-roots game.
This comes as FA shareholders overwhelmingly voted in favour of large-scale reforms to youth football aimed at bringing England's national game in line with Spain and Germany.
By 2014 the next generation of Beckhams and Rooneys will play smaller-sided games on smaller pitches with an emphasis on developing greater technical skills at a lower age.
The traditional eight-month season will be split into shorter periods of competition with teams being more closely matched by ability.
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Meanwhile the FA hopes to change the philosophy of coaches, players and parents in an effort to move the focus from winning to enjoyment of the game.
Gary Brazier, an FA Level Two qualified coach who runs Hawkinge Youth Colts under-10s, thinks the proposals are pointing the game in the right direction.
He said: "The changes are great as they will mean kids have more touches of the ball with fewer players on the pitch so I am all for that as they will improve technically.
"With U11s and U12s playing 9v9 on three-quarter pitches with smaller goals rather than going straight from seven to 11-a-side is definitely a good thing.
"My only concern is you will suddenly need double the number of coaches but that is the only negative.
"Changing the attitudes of the parents and players to winning may be difficult as football is a competitive sport.
"I have seen parents screaming on the touchline for the kids to get forward and score when their team is losing.
"And our seven and eight-year-olds always keep score and know who won even though we don't officially keep score.
"I am all for the very youngest players not worrying about the result but when they get a bit older they put a lot more effort in if there is a goal at the end of it."
The move already has support at the top of the professional game after Rio Ferdinand used Twitter to bemoan the poor results of the current system:
He wrote: "One thing our kids coaches don't do that foreign coaches do is teach them to pass the ball to a player under pressure…then coach the one-two.
"How to protect the ball under pressure..foreign players do that much better than us…one reason why they keep possession better."
The reforms have taken time to develop, with over two years of consultation across the game, but the football community has now embraced the new ideas.
Nick Levett, national development manager, said: "These changes are a massive step forward for the future of children's football in this country.
"After 138 roadshows nationwide it was fantastic to get the endorsement of the majority of the grass-roots football community for this."
Requiring three-quarters of votes to be passed, the youth development proposals garnered a comprehensive 87 per cent in favour.
The shareholders voted to bring in a new player pathway for football to include a mandatory 5v5 format for U7s and U8s while U11 and U12s will play 9v9.
Playing on appropriately-sized pitches, with size-appropriate goals, it is hoped young players will get more touches of the ball and a greater involvement in the game.
The FA admit the effects will not be seen for 15-20 years but English football has finally given itself a fighting chance of competing with the global elites.