Worrying times lie ahead for those around the country who are fans of the National Youth League. Despite the expense of putting such a league together, it looks like its life may well be limited and it could well be laid to rest at the end of this season.
Once again it was a good concept, but ill conceived by the FFA. They did not sit down and discuss with the clubs how best to structure it, and how it should be used, so that all levels of the game benefit.
Gold Coast United as the new team in the league last year, made a decision that they wanted to attract the best players in the country and continue to do so, by getting more youth players obtaining A League contracts than any other club. Melbourne Victory chose a three year development path, which would see set numbers of players selected in each age group, with a view to developing them over three years. Any that dropped out would be replaced by others of an equivalent age. These are two examples of how you can make the Youth League system work.
Sadly at the Perth Glory where they could do with a strong youth development system there seems to be a distinct lack of structure. For a start the Youth team plays a completely different style to the first team. This year’s youth team players in a lot of cases are too physically small, due to their ages to make the step up, yet Gareth Naven has again shown that he can put out a team that is competitive and disciplined.
This year the scant regard given to the National Youth League by certain quarters in the game has left those interested in the development of players gravely concerned as to what its future may be. The FFA no longer sends out a preview or a review of the weekly fixtures, they do not some weeks even update the league table. The clubs themselves have been told that they no longer have to circulate information to the media, and many have taken that at face value. The team information on a number of the club’s websites showing all players with the same squad number and the only background information being their name and date of birth.
Is it a coincidence that the clubs that have continued to send out information on their Youth teams, and whose websites are up to date are the ones who are performing the best in the Hyundai A league?
We think not, it comes down to professionalism, and leadership. With these two qualities you instill a pride in donning the team shirt, and that is evident this season.
If the Youth League is to close down what will replace it? It should not be shut down without another development path being set up. With the AIS supposedly closing in the next eighteen months and this latest intake possibly being the last, to shut the Youth league down now would be committing development suicide. The FFA need to be paying more attention to this vital part of the game and working with the clubs to ensure that it is a benefit to them rather than a hindrance and an extra financial burden.