Football Governance - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

7  The future development of the game

232.  English football is not doing enough to create a sustainable future for the clubs in the pyramid system: a failure to get on top of financial management and ownership issues is placing the future of too many clubs in jeopardy. This chapter looks at two other components affecting the future of the game: youth development and coaching. From the evidence, there appear to be two main—and related—concerns: inadequate strategic planning and insufficient funding.

Strategic planning: youth development

233.  During our visit to Germany, we heard how the German Football Association (DFB), and German Football League (DFL) had pulled together to address a perceived weakness in youth development arising from the failure of the German national side at the 2000 European Championships. The relative success of the German national side during the World Cup in South Africa in 2010—where a young, dynamic German side beat England 4:1 before losing to Spain in the semi-finals—gave an indication that the German reforms had been successful. The DFB is responsible for young footballers up to the age of 14, the most talented of whom train once a week at national centres with DFB coaches. From 15 to 18, the best young players are nurtured by league clubs and may then be offered professional contracts. The DFB noted that 61% of players in the Bundesliga first division were German, and 71% in the second division. The DFL noted the extent to which, post- 2000, the DFB and DFL had focused together on developing young players, with €40 million invested in their programme, and some 5,000 players educated. Each division one and division two club is now obliged to run a youth academy, one aim of which is to support the future national side.

234.  By contrast, a number of submissions suggested that a lack of common purpose between the FA, Premier League and Football League was delivering sub-optimal outcomes for youth development in England. For example, there does appear to be tension between the Premier League's vision for youth development, involving elite academies attached to Premier League clubs rolled out across the country, and the Football League's defence of the existing model whereby a number of Football League clubs have developed reputations for youth development and are protected from Premier League "poaching" of players—currently by means of geographical limitations. The Football League appeared particularly concerned that, under new proposals, "poaching" would become easier, and their clubs would not be adequately compensated.

235.  When we asked Former Football League Chairman Lord Mawhinney what could be done to prevent "poaching", he told us:

the danger is if it is going in the opposite direction. If the new youth development proposals are enacted there will be four categories. The biggest clubs in the Premier League will be in the top category and they will be allowed to set up training arrangements in towns and cities all around the country, sometimes in competition with Premier League or, more likely, Football League clubs in the same town. So the direction of travel is being promoted as a new elite structure for developing kids but the danger is that it is going to go in exactly the opposite direction.[334]

Lord Mawhinney also alluded to tensions over youth development involving the Football League and the FA, suggesting that the FA wanted to run its own schemes with Football League money and no Football League involvement: "our clubs were putting £40 million into youth development, the FA was putting in a minimal amount and they simply wanted us to hand over our £40 million and our young players and they would decide what to do with them".[335] In private conversation, the FA disputed this interpretation.

236.  Current Football League Chairman Greg Clarke explained that only two of the 72 Football League clubs had no youth development facilities. He observed that there was a financial imperative behind protecting this model:

Some of them, for example Crewe, make about £1 million a year from youth development because they have a real investment in both people and facilities. If that is undermined by the new proposals it will change the business model.[336]

He proposed a levy on transfer fees to "fund youth development throughout the game".[337]

237.  Greg Clarke also argued that there were wider benefits from supporting youth development at a wider number of clubs, as opposed to the elite Premier League model. He pointed out that a number of League clubs were particularly good at developing young talent, citing Middlesborough, Southampton, Charlton and Crewe. He felt that allowing them to continue helped retain the link between local clubs and their community, observing that:

Nothing excites the crowd like having a lad that grew up in the city and came up through the youth team making it into the first team. I still remember Emile Heskey, Gary Lineker; having one of your own you have seen in the bus queue actually playing for your local football league club is a great feeling and I don't want to lose that.[338]

He also argued that training with the local club could be better for the welfare of the children, particularly those who subsequently did not make the grade:

The first thing we need to be cognisant of is the well-being of the young lads being trained for football. […] If you are going to take a young child out of their community and send them a couple of hundred miles away to a boarding school where they are educated with the objective that they are going to be a professional footballer, what happens if they do not shape up or if they break their leg? Do you just dump them back where they have got no friends and no network?[339]

He stressed, though, that he was not necessarily against scrapping the geographic limit on developing young players, rather that he wanted to ensure that the Premier League proposals were implemented in such a way that they did not "undermine the economics of the clubs, smaller clubs, and the welfare of the kids".[340]

238.  The Football League's Chief Operating Officer, Andy Williamson, observed that Football League youth development had proven itself to be very successful in uncovering talent, pointing to the presence in the England squad of players who had been developed by Football League clubs. Separately, Lord Mawhinney observed that "thirteen of the England team who played recently against Denmark received most of their youth training in the Football League".[341] Andy Williamson felt that an advantage of Football League youth development was that young players were more likely to get early experience in the first team:

Debuts in the Football League very often are at the age of 17 or 18. So they are getting into Football League teams that much earlier and being introduced into competitive football that much sooner so their development is enhanced. The danger with development football is that players are not prepared, even in their late teens, to move back into competitive men's football because they have never been exposed to it. [342]

239.  The Football League clubs we heard from had similar views. Julian Tagg from Exeter City told us that the youth development system in place across the League was basically sound. He also observed that the ability to bring young players on into the first team could contribute to keeping wage costs down. Leeds United's Shaun Harvey stressed that "the biggest challenge that we all face is ensuring that there's an adequate compensation scheme in place that actually protects the interests of the clubs that are developing players from the youngest age".[343]

240.  Burnley's Barry Kilby specifically contrasted the more collaborative German model of youth development with the English one, noting in particular the challenge presented to youth development by the influx of foreign players:

one of the problems for the England team as opposed to Germay is that the Premier League hoovers up the very best talent. The big problem the Premier League has is that once they get to 19, 20, those real vital years of football development, there are so many foreign players in here […] that players are not getting that chance to develop as they would do in Germany.[344]

Julian Tagg lamented the lack of collaboration with regard to youth development:

The Premier League are trying to drive it quite rightly, because they're trying to improve and I applaud that, but that's not been done with the FA and the Football League and the Premier League all sat around the table. All these people have an interest and so it becomes […] disparate rather than a unified group of people trying to achieve something.[345]

241.  The League Managers Association also stressed the importance of a collaborative approach. Chief Executive Richard Bevan noted that the Premier League was pressing ahead with a new initiative but stressed that "I think what is important is that they embrace the Football League". He expressed optimism that this would occur. He too pointed to the example of the German system:

they are more or less one organisation and so they do work much closer together. But I absolutely believe that the Premier League are a very efficient organisation. If they were to work closer with the Football League and indeed with the FA, giving clear guidelines, then we would be in a better position.[346]

242.  David Gill offered a different perspective from the Premier League. He felt that the current system for developing youth was not strong enough, arguing that "we are putting a lot of money in and perhaps the players are not coming out, so how do we improve that"? He explained that the Premier League had been building up its youth academy model for 13 or 14 years, and now wanted to conduct a review to see what changes and improvements needed to be made. He emphasised that the review was "a tripartite process, involving the FA, Premier League and the Football League to see what has happened".[347] In its written evidence, the Premier League stressed its commitment to youth development:

The Premier League and its clubs are committed to generating Home Grown Players (HGP), with over 95% of young players in training being British. Recent Rule changes have strengthened this commitment further, with a squad limit and HGP quota for first team squads.[348]

The Premier League was particularly keen to extend the number of hours that its youth players practised, to align more closely with youth academies in its main competitor countries.

243.  The FA appeared broadly supportive of the Premier League's academy plans. General Secretary Alex Horne commented:

one of the exciting things about the Premier League proposals for elite player development is that it will necessarily be diverting and requiring investment into young home-grown playing talent. What we're striving to achieve around that turbo-charged academy system is a much broader, deeper talent pool of young players coming through the system from five years old.[349]

He did not appear, though, to recognise any tensions in the youth development plans of the Premier League and the Football League, observing that the whole game was aligned behind an approach of developing better English players.[350] In his written evidence, Steve Lawrence offered a possible explanation as to why the FA would not see any conflict: namely that, as with regulation, it had effectively sub-contracted out elite youth development: "The FA strategy for English football over the last fifteen years has been: to cede governance of high level youth development to the FA Premier League in the form of the Football Academies and Centres of Excellence".[351] One of his concerns was that, in practice, the Premier League was concentrating as much, if not more, on developing young foreign players.

244.  Developing the correct strategy for youth development is properly a matter for football. We are, however, concerned, by the evidence we received of a lack of a co-ordinated approach to such a key component in the future of the game. This seems to be an obvious area for the FA to provide strategic direction and leadership, and we urge the FA to do so.

Strategic development - coaching

245.  We also heard criticism of a lack of strategic planning with regard to the development of technical expertise. The Rt Hon Henry McLeish was one of a number of witnesses to compare the number of qualified coaches in England (and, in his case, Scotland) unfavourably with the number in Europe. Richard Bevan went into considerable detail: "If you look at the number of UEFA qualified coaches in this country, it is around 2,700. If you compare that to Germany, it is 32,000, to Spain it is 29,000 and Italy is about 27,000".[352] We asked Roger Burden, Chairman of the National Game Board, which has football development within its remit, what had gone wrong, and who was to blame. He replied that "I am not sure why it has happened and I do not know if anybody is to blame for it".[353] We suggested that the FA had allowed this issue to drift for far too long, and that this was a failure of the governance structures and the leadership of the FA. He responded that: "I think it probably is fair, because the figures prove that we do not have enough coaches compared to competitor countries".[354]

246.  Roger Burden did make it clear, however, that the FA was now taking steps to redress the situation. Kelly Simmons explained that, starting from an admittedly low base, the FA was working hard to improve things. She observed that the FA was now training 45,000 coaches a year, so that significant numbers were now coming in at the base of the coaching structure. She stressed that the focus was on working with young players as well as the A license and the Pro licence. She suggested that the new National Football Centre at St George's Park, Burton would be a major asset in making sure that more of the coaches who achieved their first qualifications worked their way up to the top. Richard Bevan also welcomed the completion of the National Football Centre, whilst criticising the length of time taken to finish the project.

247.  William Gaillard made a more general point about the development of the technical side of the game in England, spotting a lack of focus at the top of the FA by comparison with European models:

I think the key issue is that there should be—what exists in most European countries within the FA—a national technical director that would be fully in charge of football development, football education and grassroots for the whole country, and then of course would delegate part of the work to the local associations to the clubs, maybe even to the leagues, but would remain in command of the overall picture.[355]

248.  The development of technical expertise in coaching is central to the future of the game in England. There appears to be clear evidence of historic drift that has left England far behind its main European competitors. We welcome the fact that the FA is now making a concerted effort to address the problem, and suggest that our recommendation of the appointment of the Director of Football Development to the FA Board would help to sustain the momentum.


249.  As well as an absence of strategic planning, some of the evidence has pointed to a lack of funding for grassroots development. A key criticism was that insufficient funding was being redistributed from the top of the game to the grassroots. Much of the grassroots funding is distributed through the Football Foundation. The Football Foundation is funded by the Premier League, the Football Association and the Government. In its evidence it describes itself as:

a unique partnership between English Football and the UK Government, which invests £36 million into grassroots football and multisport projects every year. The Football Foundation is a good example of how TV rights money, matched by investment from Government and a National Governing Body [NGB], is a successful model of funding grassroots sport.[356]

The Premier League noted that the Football Foundation is a major investor in grassroots facilities and is also responsible for the Football Stadium Improvement Fund which directs Premier League funds towards making football stadia in the lower leagues safe and secure. This community programme is the most substantial undertaken by a single domestic sporting body anywhere in the world. The Premier League pointed out that, in addition to the annual £12 million that it put into the Football Foundation, it also contributes £8.1 million to the Football League; £20.3 million to Premier League clubs; and £3 million internationally for grassroots projects. The FA also contributes an annual £12 million to the Football Foundation, and around £20 million towards youth development and coaching. Sports Minister Hugh Robertson told us that the Government currently provides £10 million annually to the Football Foundation, and is also contributing an additional £25.6 million to the FA over the period 2009-2013 "through something called Whole Sports Plans".[357]

250.  The question posed by the evidence, set within the context of the Premier League's £1 billion-plus TV rights deal, is whether the above figures represent a reasonable distribution to the grass roots. Richard Bevan professed himself to be embarrassed by the small sums spent on training technical support staff, including referees. He compared football unfavourably with the British film industry, which spends 5%-6% of its £3 billion turnover on training for technical staff. Steve Lawrence drew attention to a commitment in the first annual report of the Football Foundation in 2000 that the FA would contribute £20 million a year, rather than the £12 million it is currently contributing. He also contrasted the total Football Foundation expenditure unfavourably with annual expenditure on grass roots football in Holland, which he put at 1 billion Euros.[358]

251.  For Ian Watmore, part of the problem was the formula used by the FA to distribute surplus revenue: a 50:50 split between the national and professional game, distributed respectively through the National Game Board and the Professional Game Board. He explained further what he meant by this. The FA raises around £200 million a year through TV deals and sponsorship deals. Once its core costs, particularly for Wembley stadium, have been absorbed, the remaining profit is distributed on a 50:50 basis between the professional game and the national game. He argued that the national game needed the money more than the professional game did. This is an important point—the total size of the pot was around £80 million last year.

252.  Roger Burden told us that the National Game Board was "very happy about the way the money is split".[359] Roger Burden was also content with the "quite clear delegated authority about responsibilities".[360] Lord Burns also professed himself to be content with the way that the National Game Board was operating. FA General Secretary Alex Horne explained that the 50:50 split had been recommended by Lord Burns, and is now set in the FA's articles of association: "To change it would require, not only 75% shareholder vote, but also Premier League, Football League and the National Game Board approval". He was, though, less wedded to the principle than Roger Burden, observing that:

I understand the model. However, I do think it is very restrictive. If the size of the surpluses change dramatically, it's a very restrictive mechanism to have written into our articles and there may well be, five years on, a better way to invest our resources against that of strategic priorities.[361]

David Bernstein accepted that, as suggested by Steve Lawrence, the FA had cut the money going to the Football Foundation because of the need to finance the development of Wembley stadium. He observed, though, that "by 2015 we should start moving into cash-positive territory".[362] One inference that may be taken from this is that the restrictions imposed by the 50:50 distribution model are likely to become more of an issue in the future.

253.  Over time, like the FA, the Government and the Premier League have also reduced the amount of funding they provide to the Football Foundation from a high of £20 million per year to £15 million and a current £12 million a year from the Premier League and £10 million a year from the Government. Hugh Robertson explained that Government contributions to the Football Foundation were capped because of financial constraint, but that there was nothing to stop the Premier League and FA from raising their contributions:

[…] If either the FA or the Premier League decided out of the goodness of their hearts to increase their contributions to "20 million, I would be absolutely delighted […] if I had the money I would do that, because I think the Football Foundation does absolutely fantastic work […][363]

We recommend that the FA review expenditure at the grass roots. It should benchmark spending on the grassroots against the leading European countries, comparing both absolute funding and funding as a proportion of generated income, to help form a view as to whether English football should be spending more on this important component of the game, with a particular emphasis on coaching education. The FA should also publish a more detailed account of funding for youth development and training activities.

334   Q 239 Back

335   Q 238 Back

336   Q 63 Back

337   Q 67 Back

338   Q 74 and Q 71 Back

339   Q 70 Back

340   Q 73 Back

341   Q 237 Back

342   Q 75 Back

343   Q 307 Back

344   Q 308 Back

345   Ibid Back

346   Q 443 Back

347   Q 189 Back

348   Ev 208 Back

349   Q 489 Back

350   Q 489 Back

351   Ev w4 Back

352   Q 414 Back

353   Q 525 Back

354   Q 526 Back

355   Q 755 Back

356   Ev w38 Back

357   Q765 Back

358   Ev w5 Back

359   Q 532 Back

360   Q 514 Back

361   Q 455 Back

362   Q 454 Back

363   Q 766 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 29 July 2011