New goal for youth football

2nd April 2004 at 01:00
The Scottish Schools' Football Association (SSFA) has broadly welcomed a new strategy for youth football unveiled at Hampden Park this week. It is backed by the Scottish Football Association, the Scottish Executive and Sportscotland.

A major grass-roots push will be made to increase the number of players and coaches. Scotland has one of the lowest ratios of players in Europe at 3.6 per cent of the population. Countries like Norway and Holland have more than double that.

The new plan envisages a 20 per cent improvement over the next 10 years. It is costing pound;31.1 million and emerges from an 18-month independent survey into the state of the game.

John Watson, secretary of the SSFA, said: "We can't argue that the principles of the system are correct. Schools football was given a fair crack of the whip in what was announced. Now we need a fair crack of the whip in how it operates."

At the heart of the proposals is a national registration system for all players over the age of 12. "There is no doubt this is what is needed as the current system of registering young players is too complicated," Mr Watson said.

"Schools football has a natural registration system, in that players can only play for the school at which they are on the school roll. We accept that it is different for elite players but what we have to decide is which players are elite and which are not. When does a development player become an elite player?

"This has to be decided between the schools, the clubs and the youth organisations. We accept that when an elite player is 15-years-old, then the clubs have better facilities to take the player further.

"But that is not to say that such a player who is only playing 20 minutes of a game for his club could not benefit from also playing for his school.

We don't think a school player should be banned from anything and there should be no absolutes."

Funding for schools and youth clubs will be used to strengthen community links. A Quality Mark system for coaches, schools and clubs will introduce a programme of incentives, courses and materials to attract new volunteers.

A national unified programme for under-19 football will bring the current systems operated by the Scottish Premier League, the Scottish Football League, the Scottish Youth FA, the Scottish Schools' FA and the Scottish Women's FA under one body, run by the SFA.

Six regions will be set up.

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