It was reported this week, in Training Ground Guru, that new Premier League regulations will mean there will be no minimum age at which children can train with academies. It will also extend it's game programme to the U7s.
We have previously raised concerns about 'elite' teams of 5 year olds so a move to lift all age restrictions is deeply worrying, irrespective of any safeguarding or other rules put in place.
We have drafted the letter below to be sent to the Premier League's CEO prior to their AGM in June.
We urge all coaches, parents, welfare officers, writers, academics and institutions connected to children's sport to read this letter and consider pledging their support by using the form below to confirm:
Your details will be added below but your email address will not be disclosed. The letter will be open for signature until 29 May 2020.
Letter to the Premier League
Dear Mr Masters,
We write to express our concern at the proposal to amend academy regulations to permit, inter alia, clubs to coach children without restriction on age.
It is reported that these changes are being proposed without input from The FA or other relevant external stakeholders or experts.
We urge the Premier League to reflect on the need for wide-ranging and informed discussion before such a significant change is agreed. The best interests of children must always be the paramount concern within any such debate.
With this in mind, we believe the following points must be considered before a decision is made at your AGM.
1. The absence of clear evidence to support talent identification at a young age.
2. The impact of a race to recruit on very young children, their families and the wider youth game.
3. The evidence that early specialisation is unhelpful and that a multi-sport background is more beneficial from a child development perspective.
4. Most importantly, the overriding need to respect and prioritise the rights of children as recognised by international law. This includes the child’s right to self-directed play and to be heard.
We urge you to consider these points and the potential impact of these changes on childhood and the broader landscape of children's football.
A copy of this letter is being sent to the The FA, the Children’s Commissioner, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Dr Debbie Sayers, Club Secretary and Welfare Officer, Salisbury Rovers FC Stephen Kavanagh, Aston FC Youth Ray Power Paul Goodwin Eamonn Doherty, Chair, Salisbury Rovers FC Ross Adkin Noel Sritharan Asif Ali Dan Wright James Fallon David Dale Steven Jackson Minehead U15s Lee Deema Rob Holland Mark Carter Lawrence Gower Carlos Costa Chris Miller Dan Eggington Oliver Carter Chris Gardner Steve Hooper Dean Woodham, Moretonville Junior Football Club Paul Whitty Club Welfare Officer (Wallingford Town AFC) Steve Miles Rob Sutton Russ Tranter Stuart Stevens Glynn Smith Kewford Eagles East Fc Mini Soccer Manager David Donald Russ Gibbs Bingham Town FC Chris Jordan Aston FC Andy Munday Hayden Youth Tim Clifford Manea Strikers Youth F.C. Barry Webb David Pears Jonathon Carter Steve Eason Head of Girls Football Development Centre Steve Merritt u10 girls Worthing Town F.C Neil Dean Mark Woodhouse Loyd Baker Neil Dean Sammie Ferhati Mark Tuck Manea Strikers Youth F.C. Chair