Friday, November 02, 2007


The Plan, Part 2

There's plenty of material to chew over in the new National Football Development Plan, so it's probably best to take it in small chunks. First:

1. The Youth League, Part 1

Now, to clear the ground once again (since the old myth appears to be dying very, very hard): the proposed national youth competition is a genuine innovation. There never, repeat never, has been anything similar in the past. The round-robin youth competitions have only ever been regional, largely because of the expenses associated with travel.

The first obvious question is: will the players be paid?

One would assume so, if they are to be mostly between 18 and 21, as the document indicates (Initiatives, section 4a). Perhaps we will see some variant of the two-tier system adopted in America, where the apprentice players at the MLS clubs are paid what might be described as a nominal wage. As I've mentioned on this blog before, there are potential problems with this.

Neither in the main document itself nor in the FFA's summary are we given any information in that area, though. David Davutovic provided some scant detail in his original piece. Perhaps it's one of those details still to be thrashed out.

In any event, the costs will be considerable: travel, coaching of a sufficient standard, accommodation, and all the rest. The FFA has apparently undertaken to cover the bulk of the costs itself (see Davutovic's piece above), with the clubs to chip in enough to keep the national body solvent. It's a significant drain, whichever way you look at it.

So to the question of the benefits.

In many ways, the frustrating situation of the A-League and state league seasons not aligning has made a youth league a much more attractive option, given that younger players who can't quite make the grade at the senior A-League clubs have plenty of "off-time"; as Rob Baan has complained:

Using his first Olyroos camp at the beginning of the year as an example, he [Baan] said he realised a National Youth League was necessary after finding out about 70 percent of his squad was not playing competitive football.

"I'll give you a few names," said Baan. "Kristian Sarkies, not playing; Bruce Djite, not playing; Adam D'Apuzzo, not playing; Steven O'Dor, not playing. Nathan Burns had played a few games. Topor-Stanley had come in near the end with a few matches. But that was it."

It's a fair point, and one made by others in the past (notably Ange Postecoglou) as well.

But a question that deserves to be asked is whether a youth league would provide the players with the sort of competition from which they would gain real competitive sharpness and increased technical prowess. To quote from the NFDP this time (Talented Player Development, Page 7):

Deficient game skills and game hardness evident in mid teens and the majority of the major footballing countries, by age 18 or 19, the best young players are competing in professional senior environments (with and against adult professionals), throughout the full season...

And here is something of an irony. The above is palpably true, but the FFA have elected to make their priority a youth league rather than an expansion of the existing league...which would surely provide more opportunities for young players to be truly mixing it with the senior professionals, in a testing environment, rather than simply playing among themselves.

The next question is how the new competition would differ from the youth competitions currently on offer (in the state leagues). But that will have to wait until next time.

Great read mikey

Taking from the point of the youth league and whether the younger players get 'real' match hardness etc against adult players.

Wouldn't the teams in the new proposed YL have some senior players (ultimately fringe 1st team players) in any case?
...Wouldn't the teams in the new proposed YL have some senior players (ultimately fringe 1st team players) in any case?...

I'd imagine these would be mainly players out of favour or guys returning from injury. Not exactly your ideal toughening agents. But better than nothing, I guess.
What's your stance mikey on NZ not being allowed to field a team in the YL?

Instead being replaced by an AIS squad.

And also if the YL players are to be paid squad players for their respective club, how does the AIS team fit into this structure?
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