Monday, March 12, 2007

Club v Academy

There is a pressing issue that is arising through Junior football in Wales that is causing much anxiety and confusion, not to mention a good helping of scepticism amongst the people running the teams.

The word is spreading that from next season, the one player - one club rule will be strictly enforced at Junior level. From next August, and player that is registered with an academy will not be allowed to play for his regular club.

The general feeling is that the rule is unworkable, and that it cannot be beneficial for any party involved. The issue is sitting there like a dark cloud waiting to burst, with little guidance, discussion or information reaching the junior club administrators.

At a League meeting a few weeks ago, nobody really belived it will ever happen. But without discussion, communication and consultation, the rule will pass, and the FAW Trust will find itself bombarded with crisis calls from clubs and players who find themselves in disarray.

There are some tricky issues to be resolved here. Let's look at some likely scenarios.

* Player A is a star player for Felinheli U13s. He is on the fringes of the Bangor City Academy side. Unable to play for Felin, he sits on the bench for Bangor's games.
Frustrated at the lack of football, he goes back to Felin, and no longer benefits from the Academy training.

* Players B, C, and D are outstanding in the Waunfawr 15s and represent Caernarfon Academy. Unfortunately the rest of the Waunfawr Squad is very weak. Without players B,C and D, they regularly lose heavily, the players become disenchanted and the team disbands.

* Player E enjoys playing for his club alongside his schoolmates, but he also appreciates the training he receives at the Academy. His parents do not drive. He leaves the club and finds himself making regular long trips with the academy to away games in Liverpool, Cardiff and Swansea. Disenchanted with the travelling and finding it increasingly difficult to make travel arrangements, he leaves the Academy.

Now I am not familiar with the Academy situation. My players are too young. (Though the Academy age group and qualifying procedure has never been very clear to those of us who aren't in the know.)

But I am confused about what is going to happen. Will the Academy play regular football for their contracted young players? If so, against who? Will Bangor travel to the English clubs? To South Wales? If so, how can this fit into the travelling guidelines set down for young players?

Currently the whole thing is a hotpotch of rumour and speculation. It is causing unrest amongst the junior clubs and should be addressed sooner rather than later.


Livzy said...

As a manager of a local league side and the parent of an academy player I sit with a foot firmly in both camps on this one. I am delighted my son has the talent I never did and has been picked for the bangor Academy side. His "real age" is under 10's, (school year 5) but plays under 11's for his local league side. His birthday is 1997 so in academy terms thats Under 9's but he has recently been playing for the Academy under 11's too.

Now the "one player, one club" rule is, in my opinion, a total farce for junior players for all the reasons your have mentioned in the blog BUT if the players is good enough then, with all due respect to the local leagues, he should get to play with, and against, the best players around.

The onus is very much on the FAW to ensure that there is a strong local(ish) league of Academy clubs for the players to get regular games.

Example - for the Bangor Academy under 9's they have played only twice since September. Once at Connahs Quay against Flintshire and once over at the Everton Academy facility against Everton and a travelling Partick Thistle side. This isnt because they dont want to play more often, its because there are so few under 9's teams within Academy structures.

The Under 11's however could play almost every week as there are plenty of teams within a two hour drive that have under 11's representation.

So the answer - in my opinion - is that if the FAW (on UEFA directive I hasten to add) are going to enforce this rule then they MUST also create a proper league structure to ensure the taleneted players get to play regularly.

If this doesnt happen then bin this direcitve right now and let the boys do what they love to do and thats play football.

There is another alternative of course in that they only enforce the rule over a certian age group whixch, common sense suggests, is Under 17's when the boys can then legally play i nthe Mens leagues.

This would also allow for the inevitable drop off of all those super taleneted ten year olds who get to fifteen discover beer and girls or just natuarlly drift away to other sports or hobbies.

I have to say though that for many local league sides they will end up of lesser quality of their "star" players can no longer play for them but this will even itself out over a season or two as the teams recruit new players. some teams may well struggle to raise a team initially but then thats a job for the junior clubs to resolve and ensure they are thinking about this now - not next September when their players have already had to make the extremely difficult decision to leave.

But isnt that the same at any levle of football? The sides in the old Fourth Division don't have first division quality players. The first division players play i nthe fuirst division and like it or nmot, when/if the one player, one club rule comes into force then the Academy league will become the Premiership of junior football and the rest of the leagues will make do with the best of the rest.

It wont necessarily be all bad as for every Rooney that ends up in the Premiershipyou will have a Trundle starring in League One - even in the Aberconwy & District J.F.L.

Eric the Red said...

OPut of interest Livzy, what did your son have to do to get in the Academy?

Were there trials, invitations, scouts?

How does it work, because at Felin Under 9s, we have had no contact from either Caernarfon or Bangor Academies. Is the onus on us to contact them?

Gary said...

.. and the thing is you'll have the better kids playing against kids of a similar standard and not being big fish in small ponds, which can only be beneficial when they move on to regional/national squads.

At the same time, the kids who spend every Sunday morning wearing their trackie tops in anticipation of getting the last two minutes once "the game's safe" will get regular games.