Thursday, 1 December 2011

FA and DFB - Very Similar Systems?

This blog covers a specific comment that was made by the FA's Head of National Game during an interview on grassroots football When this subject is discussed by the national media there is a tendency to go 'off topic' and the debate on Five Live jumped around between referees, respect, parents, coaching, the class system in football versus rugby amongst other things.

One thing that did stand out during the debate was the contribution by Rafael Honigstein (Guardian German Football Reporter).  He described the German FA's (DFB) approach to young player development which I have covered in a previous blog.  When asked about this, Kelly Simmons said that the FA have looked at the German structure a number of times and that we have 'very similar systems' in place in the form of Academies, Centres of Excellence and Skills Programmes.  This is where I would ask, similar in what way?  The DFB specifically changed their youth development model as they professed that at the time (after France 1998 and Euro 2000) the recruitment system for the German national team was something akin to a "lottery", with professional clubs running their Academy systems as individual entities.  This, I would argue is where we are similar to the DFB, the problem is this is where we are now in 2011.  Also, crucially, the DFB implemented the new system, not the Bundesliga meaning the clubs had to conform to their national associations plan.  This meant a vision and philosophy was set by the DFB and communicated through the German youth development structure.

Also, another fundamental difference is the structure.  The DFB have a four pillar system where we have one - the Professional Academy/Centre of Excellence system.  The DFB opened 366 regional bases, where professional, salaried coaches now work with some 14,000 young players between the ages of 11 and 14 in addition to the training done at their respective clubs.  We certainly don't have FA Support Bases, FA Regional Centres or Elite School Programmes, and, crucially if we do move to having an additional pillar in the Elite School Programme, these will be under the jurisdiction of the Premier League, not the Football Association.

The key and fundamental difference between the FA and DFB is the control and governance of youth development.  Cautious of the potential bureaucracy the proposals may have triggered, in particular the issues of finance and staffing- the DFB simply established and implemented a new youth development structure, meaning that the clubs had to conform.

Gareth Southgate has said himself when interviewed alongside Steve Parish that the preferred model for youth development would be a regionally based structure under the FA's responsibility.  I recall his words were something along the lines that this would not be possible now because of the passage of time since the Charter for Quality and introduction of the Academies and Centres of Excellence structure.  The Government have certainly recognised this when saying - "that although the FA govern the game, with rules that take precedence over those of the leagues it sanctions, the FA has subsequently ceded considerable authority to the Premier League"

This is the reason for my blog, do you see the similarities between the two systems?  The Elite Player Performance Plan is seen as a fundamental shift in youth development (akin to the shift in Germany post Euro 2000) but crucially it is under the financial and philosophical control of the Premier League, not the FA.  The DFB's view that the professional clubs running the Academies as 'individual entities' was part of the problem.  For me, the EPPP, although having the aim of increased contact time, more coaches, more links with full time education and the overall improvement of youth development, will it improve English players for the England National Team in the same way the DFB's changes have changed the German National Team?

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