Sports Academies are also present around the country to develop performers, the HCC Football Academy (Hackney Community College Academy) have been in operation for over a year and have already won the UEFA Festival of Sport. The UK-Football Academy located in Luton, Bedfordshire ensures performers have the opportunity to be showcased via Professional Football Trials in the presence of top football scouts from the Premier League right down to the Blue Square Premier. Their coaching is delivered by UEFA ‘A’ & ‘B’ licensed coaches; they also pride themselves in teaching ‘essential life skills’ which they believe will aid performers’ paths into professional football.
County Associations are one of the fundamental pathways into supporting performers. As Appendix  shows, each county is represented by one member of the FA Council. Each Development Team works to provide coaching and funding to children and adults throughout their area. Included within this sphere is the awarding of the FA Charter Standard, the development of women’s and girls’ football, the promotion of minority groups within the game and the running of a series of courses to aid coaching standards. They are also responsible for administering club and player registration as well as promoting development amongst those bodies and .
Football’s National Governing Body – The F.A is responsible for developing and regulating the game at levels from international football to the grassroots. They invest £60m into the game each year with the income mostly coming from sponsorships. The F.A. Hat-Trick Programme delivers Community Football Development workers in the most deprived areas of the country, and they are committed to removing any barriers to people of all ethnic backgrounds playing football.
The professional structure of football is important in the development of performers. The system contains a hierarchy of leagues following the principle of relegation and promotion. The advantage for performers is that teams from more prominent teams than the one they play can purchase them from their respective clubs.
Talent Identification of each phase of the football performer pathway is as follows:
Phase One: (Identification of Talent) – Teenagers between 14-16 are screened within their school via a host of physical and physiological assessments, and then their results are compared against a national database, if they show evidence of surpassing the average standards, they progress onto level two.
Phase Two: (Testing Stage & Selection Stage) – The screening stage continues as in Phase One but this time, the testing is more sport-specific. This phase sees if they can use the results they had in Phase One and implement them into a more sport specific environment. If there is an indication of increased sports potential, then they will be in the ‘selection’ phase.
Phase Three: (Development Stage) - Young athletes who have been identified as talented, and selected for a particular sport via testing, will be invited to participate in a talented athlete programme – the ‘development’ phase. Different clubs have different requirements to identifying talented players, e.g. TIPS – technique, intelligent, personality, speed (Ajax Football Club), TABS – technique, attitude, balance and speed (Barcelona Football Club), SUPS – speed, understanding, personality and skills (Arsenal Football Club).
After these phases, you will be invited to a trial at a club. Talent Identification schemes will simply pick the best individuals i.e. who they believe is most likely to make it as a professional footballer. Some football clubs want to test your fitness and your performance in a football match whilst others just concentrate on the latter. Speed is very important in football today as the game is very fast-moving and hence this attribute is considered by almost all clubs, normally they will judge speed by seeing performers sprint in a football match.
It is of vital importance that there are opportunities for football performers for specific populations, who may be under-represented due to a wide range of barriers. In England, there is a whole host of opportunities specifically aimed at disabled athletes, the diagram below shows the importance the country pays to include everyone regardless of their ability:
The level of provision for females in England is much lower than that of the provision for males, due to the lack of female teams and the lack of demand for female footballers. The FA funds full-time football development staff in each County Football Association to deliver its development programme. These include 47 Women’s and Girls’ Football Development Officers “working strategically across the country to introduce the playing opportunities required”. There is a gender imbalance for performers progressing through to elite level of representation.
In conclusion, having researched the provision for football performers in England, I can say that there is no shortage of opportunities available and it is mostly at the digression of people to make the most out of them. One positive is that most of them are free and do not require any previous experience which is good as it involves everyone regardless of their ability. To improve provision for football performers, there could be a remit for females to progress through the pathways the same as males.
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By Rashid Muhidin