Soccer charter's penalty

23rd May 1997 at 01:00
School football is set for a shake-up which has been greeted with dismay by the English Schools' Football Association.

Howard Wilkinson, technical director of the Football Association, announced his ambitious Charter for Quality last Monday.

Malcolm Berry, chief executive of the ESFA, said some aspects of the charter which has to be ratified by the FA council, would benefit his organisation "but many will be strongly challenged".

The most controversial proposals are to give professional clubs sole responsibility for developing talented players from the age of eight and making the under-15s team the responsibility of the FA, not the ESFA.

"We can't accept that," said Mr Berry. "When I first read the report I thought it was pretty damning of school sport and it doesn't augur well for football's future at a higher level. But Howard has just spoken to me and we will meet as soon as possible to discuss it."

The charter says that clubs would be encouraged to set up their own academies and centres of excellence - common practice on the Continent - which would supersede the FA National School.

Mr Wilkinson, former manager of Leeds United and once a teacher, denied that schools would lose out. "In no way does it set out to undermine them; it will improve their lot both financially and otherwise."

Under the new plan, talented footballers would play fewer matches - 30 a season - clubs would take preference over school games, coaching would be improved and small-sided teams would play a key role for under-10s.

"It is a sea change. At the moment the best players play too many games because of the demands of schools and clubs. When they get the chance of good coaching they are too tired. The older they get, the more they are playing the sort of football that's not in their best interest development-wise," said Mr Wilkinson.

The charter also includes a commitment to developing girls' and women's football, and suggests that school, junior and holiday football should be subject to new quality controls. It envisages that a national coach for under-21s would become the next England senior coach, to improve continuity.

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