FA ban competitive football at under eights

First published in Sport Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by , Sports reporter

AN FA initiative to ban under eights from playing competitive football has been greeted with mixed feelings from junior leagues across East Lancashire.

Under new guidelines, no league tables or results will be allowed to be compiled but youngsters can still play matches.

Cup competitions will now be replaced by football festivals.

The new rules come in to force in September as the FA attempts to focus on improving skills and technique and move away from the win at all cost mentality.

While some league officials welcome the move, others fear it is a step too far.

Chris Whalley, chairman of the East Lancashire Alliance — one of the biggest junior leagues in Lancashire — says it will be a good idea in the long run.

He said: “At that age, children just want to play football and enjoy themselves. It should not be about winning league titles although players will still try and win games as score as many goals as they can because that is the nature of the game.

“But the pressure put on them by some managers and parents will be taken away which can ony be a good thing for the children in the long run.”

Whalley said the league’s under sevens age group — who will play in the under eights next season — already play on a friendly league basis.

“Of course, this is a big change and I know some people will agree and some won’t. But our under sevens already play on a friendly basis so we have a good idea of how it will be received.”

The Warburton Youth League introducing under eights for the first time next season and vice chairman John Pilling fears they could become the forgotten teams.

“We are so used to seeing results and tables on websites and papers that I fear these teams will be forgotten about.

“We have worked very hard to get an under eights team up and running but no-one will know they are they.

“Personally, I think the FA have overreacted. You are always going to get winners and losers in football and matches will always be competitive.

“So banning league tables and results won’t make much difference.”

Selina Voght, secretary of the North Valley Friendly League says her league has always promoted fair play since the league was formed 14 years ago.

She said: “I can understand why the FA have brought in this plan but I can’t say I fully agree with it. Banning tables and results won’t really work because they will always be available. Managers of teams will always know where they stand in unofficial tables.

“From what I gather, the whole purpose is to let children just play football but with cup competitions banned it may mean they are playing even less football.”

The FA's Director of Football Development, Sir Trevor Brooking, a former England international, said: "It's widely accepted that we need to improve the skills and technique of players in this country.

"At the moment we are not at the same level as other countries. In the youngest age groups, there's too much emphasis on winning leagues, often to satisfy parents and coaches. That's what we're looking to change. We need better, more skilful players coming through.

"Of course, we are not banning children from competing against each other in football. Every game played is competitive, but undoubtedly having league tables at this age is not helping their development. It is the league tables being stopped rather than matches."

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