Football development officer and Labour Friends of Football member Peter Thornton gives his views on fixing English football. This is the first in a series here. What are your views? Comment below, email us or tweet us @LabourFootball.
Fixing English Football
It is a bi-annual event. After every European Championships or World Cup, the nation vents its spleen at what is wrong with the national football team. Everyone standing on a playing field with a few cones and a bag of balls can put it right. Everyone sitting in their armchair with a few cans and a bag of crisps can put it right. So what is to be done?
There are two objectives. Better coaching. And better facilities. We can begin to put coaching right if we banish two words ‘get rid’. We can begin to put the facilities right if we invest in two symbols ‘4G’.
Putting the coaching right, developing more and better coaches to develop more and better players is already happening. Back in 2008 the FA introduced the FA Youth Modules (FAYMs). The FAYMs focus on showing coaches the ‘how’ just as much as the ‘what’. To try to get away from yelling at kids every time they touch the ball. Or as Roger Davis of the FA succinctly put it “Is it junior football? Or is it Playstation for dads and coaches?” The FAYMs are trying to see kids coached the right way long before they reach professional clubs, to learn the game without pressure, to develop the skills and the touch necessary to enjoy the game, to make decisions for themselves on the field. And to try to get coaches to let the kids play with freedom, to not be afraid of making a mistake, to be willing to take on the opposition in 1v1 situations, to be adventurous. If we can change the coaching mindset from ‘get rid’ to ‘go on have a try’ we will be half way there.
The FA has developed a strategy called The Future Game. Many forward thinking coaches, after analysing the best of what the continent does, had input into it. We are playing more and more small sided games. We are playing more and more development football. We should start to see the results around 2020/2. It will require commitment and patience, but we are already seeing players emerge like Barkley, Sterling and Shaw.
David Cameron called for more volunteers. That would be nice. What would be better is if we value the thousands of volunteers who give up much of their time to coach kids now. Without them there would be no football.
At the FA Licensed Coaches club conference at St George’s Park it was stated that to bring the nations 4G facilities up to speed with those in Holland, France, Germany and Spain would require £8 BILLION. Clearly this is not going to happen overnight. Hospitals and Libraries are closing. Money for local government is being counted by the penny.
Yet the benefits of 4G, not only for football, but for all the community are manyfold. An increase in healthy activities and a decrease in crime seem the obvious ones. A 4G surface can be used for many other sports too. In all weathers barring four feet of snow.
If somehow the government can get an agreement with the Premier League, the most successful and lucrative sports league in the world, then we might move forward faster. With more kids playing football more often, development should accelerate and also give the nation a larger pool of homegrown youngsters to choose from. Given that just 0.015% of kids who play go on to turn professional this is an investment in grassroots for the enjoyment of the many not the few.
So there we have it. Get rid of ‘get rid’ and invest in 4G. We’ll not only have England at the top table of football again, we can bring enjoyment to hundreds of thousands.
Peter Thornton (InsideWrite1957)
Full Member of Labour Friends of Football