FA scores over schools;Football

20th March 1998 at 00:00
Last Saturday's football jamboree at Wembley - when a record crowd of 50,787 watched England under-15s draw 0-0 in the invitation match against Brazil - was probably the last of its kind.

The English Schools Football Association, which has organised such events for nearly 50 years, is handing over to the Football Association.

Last November the FA council adopted the Charter for Quality, a plan to restructure the game devised by Howard Wilkinson, former manager of Leeds United and the FA's technical director.

To the consternation of the schools association, he proposed that clubs, rather than schools, should take control of talented youngsters and that major soccer occasions such as the internationals at Wembley should be replaced by tournaments or festivals.

The gate money had helped the school association to survive and Malcolm Berry, its chief executive, is negotiating with the FA to make up the shortfall.

Mr Wilkinson's plans bring England into line with Europe where clubs look after young talent. Brazilian clubs also find and develop young players. There is still some resistance from teachers who fear that some boys' education will suffer if they are discarded by professionals in pursuit of success at any price.

But the new era was already visible on Saturday as England fielded six boys belonging to Manchester United, one to Charlton Athletic and five who attend the FA National School.

The English Schools Football Association, however, can point to a proud record as a breeding ground for national talent: luminaries include Ryan Giggs, Terry Venables, Bobby Charlton and the day's chief guest, Johnny Haynes, who played the first schoolboy match at Wembley in 1950.

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