“It’s all about Youth development” has become the catch cry to try and convince many that the National Premier Leagues(NPL) are ultimately going to be for “the Good of the Game;” Yet another slogan, which at times has been shown to a vacuous one.
Sadly many people in football, as in other sports and areas in life will sit back and say nothing until the actions of others actually impact on them personally. It is this apathy that allows others to instigate changes that are not in the best interests of the game or the individuals playing and watching it.
Sport has used another phrase for years ‘if you are good enough you are old enough.’ Daniel da Silva made his A League debut at 15 years of age, because his coach Alistair Edwards thought he was good enough and he showed he was. Eighteen year old Matthew Davies also at Perth Glory has proven he too is up to playing senior football, Pele proved it playing for Brazil at a World Cup aged 17, Sachin Tendulkar proved it playing Test cricket at the age of 16. “The Class of 92” a new film about David Beckham, the Neville Brothers, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs will show that they all made their debuts for Manchester United at 17 years of age except for Phillip Neville and Paul Scholes who were 18 and 19 respectively.
If people take the time to read the Competition rules for the NPL in Western Australia, and many will not bother, they will find that first of all clubs are being dictated to as to the size of the squad that the coach will work with; although they use an AFL term, calling it a “roster.”
Under Article 20 subsection 2 it reads “A player roster must comprise exactly twenty (20) players. Rosters which do not comprise 20 players will not be accepted.” How can a club be dictated to as to how many players it has in its squad, surely that is down to the coach and the club’s budget, not the game’s administrators? By all means put a cap on a maximum number, so that you do not see players tied to a club and not playing but to determine how many a club must have and refuse them should they chose to operate with less seems ridiculous and dictatorial.
This is however not the crux of the matter, or the point of this piece, but it ties in. Article 19 subsection 3 states: “Only players named on each club’s First Team Player Roster, as detailed in Article 20 may be named on the team list and take part in a first team match.”
To be fair it does state in subsection 6 that “after the start of the season, a club may change its player roster on a weekly basis as long as the request is received by noon on the penultimate business day before the club’s next scheduled match.” However that may not be so easy with the player’s being allocated points based on age, loyalty to that club, and level at which they have played. As subsection 7 states “any change to the player roster will only be accepted if the total points value of all players on the updated player roster does not exceed 250.”
The restriction on only selected players from the first team squad/roster goes against developing youth players. How many teams in the State league competition over the years have promoted players performing well from the Under 18’s to the first team? How many have sat a player from the under 18’s on the first team bench to start getting them involved in the first team, even if they are not ready for action just yet?
Ron Smith when he was at the Perth Glory as head coach had all of the A-League coaches agree that the home side should be allowed an extended bench in the A-League so that they could involve younger players in the experience of playing in the first team. It also gave them the option if they were winning a game easily, to blood a youngster; Whereas otherwise a coach will invariably opt for a safe option of experienced players. Of course despite all agreeing to this move the FFA never implemented it.
Ask any player playing at the highest level and 99% will tell you that they were plucked from a younger age group to play at a higher level at some point in their career. To take that opportunity away is foolhardy.
Where is the incentive for a talented 17 year old who has not been placed in the 20 man first team squad to perform week in week out if a first team spot is unattainable, simply because he was not put on a list submitted at the start of the season?
Most of the people running clubs and coaching clubs, are quick to reminisce about the young players they produced at their club. We would therefore ask them to consider whether they are happy to stop that ability to promote a talented young player?
These rules are not going to be for the good of the game and history will tell you they are not about youth development. So why would anyone sign off on them? Or more importantly why would anyone with any knowledge of the game suggest them, and then plan on implementing them?
This rule should never be allowed to stay if the NPL is to have any chance of being a success. Why would any teenager who thinks he is talented sign with an NPL club knowing that their progress is likely to be restricted for a year?
(Please can we get rid of the word “Roster” from football? It has never been a football term and has migrated in Australia either from America or AFL. Can we stop using this term please?)