Sunday, November 04, 2007
The Plan, Part 3
2. The Youth League, Part 2
In the NSL days, of course, the clubs in the senior competition (well, most of them) had a development setup, and the juniors were able to play in the regional divisions of the old National Youth League, along with the AIS (in the northern division) and the state institutes.
These days, the Under 20s at old NSL clubs such as Marconi, Sydney Olympic and Sydney United (I use NSW examples merely for convenience, seeing as I live there and know a bit more about these clubs than those in Victoria and elsewhere) play in the Under 20 division of the state league. It is, presumably, largely from these teams that the A-League clubs will draw the cohorts for their new Under 21 teams.
So, what will be the benefits?
An obvious one is that they will then be associated closely with a fully professional setup. Despite the very good work that many of the state league clubs do in terms of development, they cannot offer that sort of proximity to a genuinely full-time professional outfit anymore. The experience that such kids would gain by being in an A-League environment, especially if they are occasionally drafted into first-team squads, as envisaged in the plan (Initiatives, Section 10) would surely be beneficial.
Then there's the chance for the younger players (and their coaches) to get a taste of what's on offer in the other states, and of course the crucial benefit, which Rob Baan hinted at here: that the kids, with a youth league in place, would be active more or less year-round (with participation in the state leagues virtually a given, one would assume).
A further plus for the competition as a whole would be the fact that there would be more players available as injury cover throughout the season (see, again, Initiatives, Section 10). The reserve-keeper-in-an-outfield-shirt embarrassment of last season might have served to remind the FFA of the problems inherent in a small squad.
Set against all this is the fact that the existing state league clubs have exactly what the A-League clubs don't: a long-established development path (with the infrastructure already in place), continuity of youth teams, and corporate knowledge and experience among the coaching staff. But, to revisit our old friend Initiatives Section 10, there is:
...a long-term aim for Hyundai A-League clubs to play a major role in the development of talented players in Australia throught the implementation of a three part of youth development (sic) structure...
Proofreading aside, this is excellent news. The big question will be, of course, exactly how long it will take before the A-League clubs undertake such a structural change. At clubs where the finances are tight, there may well be some resistance at various stages, even if they can use the younger groups as an extra, albeit minimal, revenue source.