England. One of the most naturally talented footballing countries in the world, that is nurtured into failure and underachievement on a consistent basis. Why is it that a region of the world with such naturally gifted youngsters fall by the wayside in the modern game?
Can legislation be the difference between success and failure in youth football?
For a country the size of England and the resources it boasts, the failures of youth football in this country is quite simply stunning.
Less than 1% of football players in England become professional, and make it in the game, a quite frankly stunning and terrifying statistic for the future of the game.
Here is how I think Legislation can help the development of footballers in this country:
Young players are given too much too soon in the modern game, with players able to make a yearly salary in the space of a month despite being miles away from senior level.
Earning a five figure weekly salary as a 15-18 year old is not healthy for the mindset of an aspiring professional.
I think that salary caps should be revamped at youth level and should be based upon reaching landmarks, (e.g bonus of x amount based on reaching x amount of first team appearances or scoring x amount of goals.)
By doing this, players who are motivated by money would have more of an incentive to achieve on the pitch in order to reap the rewards off it.
Tottenham Hotspur’s wage infrastructure is one of the biggest narratives surrounding the top six, with players played ‘small’ wages in the context of the modern game yet sensible amounts in the business side of the game. Few players are paid above the £100,000 a week ceiling, yet reap rich rewards based upon reaching landmarks/hitting targets. Love it or loathe it, it is sensible and efficient to a certain extent.
However, due to the wealth of Premier League clubs and the desperation of holding the most valuable assets in the country, this is extremely unlikely to come to fruition.
The Premier League is one of the most prosperous leagues in world football, and as a result can afford some of the most prestigious talents on the planet.
The England side that started and won the Under 20 World Cup final in Korea boasted just 30 league appearances between them. That is an average of 2.72 Premier League appearances per player throughout last season. The conveyor belt between youth team and first team has slowed down dramatically in recent years.
Even Tottenham Hotspur, who have somewhat of a reputation for integrating youth into the first team have slowed down somewhat in their youth development, as they chase success due to media pressure and financial rewards.
One way the FA can address the lack of first team football for youth players is introducing new matchday rules. For example (x amount of homegrown/academy players in matchday squad or x amount of homegrown/academy players in starting eleven.)
Age cap on recruitment policies.
In the last year, players as young as three are being approached by professional clubs. Three years old! At this age, these academy prospects haven’t learned to read, write or even joined school yet.
This means should these players reach scholarship age, they have spent over 13 years in an academy setting. This restricts children from playing football and playing in the streets with their friends, here these children are treated as corporate assets. This is morally wrong.
In my opinion, clubs should not recruit players into the academy until age 14. At this age, children are learning and developing into young adults as well as starting to think consciously. Here, academy footballers can start to prioritise and think sensibly about their future.
This way, people could not be stringed along for years before being forsaken by academies. Dreams can be shattered, which leads me nicely onto my fourth and final point.
Support chains for discarded prospects.
Mental Health is a big factor in life and in football, as the stigmatisation around anxiety and depression is finally being addressed and deemed socially acceptable on and off of the pitch. Some players may be deemed surplus to requirements after years of being told that they are valuable assets to the long term future of a club.
Unfortunately, there is no morale support chain from clubs after releasing players. Once players are released they are just considered a demographic not a human being by these clubs.
Sufferers of mental health issues are encouraged to speak out and seek help from support lines (and rightfully so), yet in football there is somewhat of an ignorance towards mental health in football. There is no support networks / help inside the football community.
Many players suffer setbacks in their career at youth level before being rejuvenated and making a success story at other clubs. For example, Javier Zanetti was rejected from Independiente before coming up through the ranks at Inter Milan.
Each player reacts to setbacks in different manners, and it is important that when a young man/woman is denied a dream opportunity that they receive assistance and are re-motivated, in order to make them stronger players and people.
What do you make of these thoughts? Let us know your opinions in the comments below!
featured image credit Sky News