Recently there has been a shift in how the youth academy’s are operated in Scotland, the current elite academy scheme has restricted many clubs youth development programmes, policies and potentially financial models.
I’ve often wondered what it would take to completely change and radicalise the current system for the better. For years I have wondered why youth systems are set up in such a way that requires 12 year olds and their families to drive from Dundee to the central belt for over an hours football. That’s more driving for less football, how does this benefit anyone in the grand scheme of things?
I then heard an interview with Gordon Strachan the former Scotland manager saying the same thing but about touches, his example was a child drives all that way and then gets a limited amount of touches when he/she would be better off staying in there local area playing or training for longer and getting more touches. Compound this over 6 -7 years in youth football and the numbers certainly stack up, Scotland could have players more technically aware and fluid on the ball before they hit 16.
They way in which I see the future would be a framework developed by the SFA with development schools or elite academies, call it what you will, built around the country, the size of these academies would be determined by the local population of kids and they would run multiple teams per age group in each location to allow the kids to play a better chance of success and enable them to play other similar level teams and develop there game further and for longer without he unnecessary travel to other locations in the country.
At the end of every season the top performing teams of every age group would play a tournament against each other in one of the development locations. This allows each area to test their skills against the best from around the country.
From here, it’s important to note that the teams wouldn’t be Dundee, Celtic, Aberdeen or Rangers. As the SFA would be responsible for this they would also then loan draft the kids into the top two leagues at an age where they can benefit from first team football. The option for them to be permanently drafted into a team would come after an initial two year spell of the loan drafting.
For this the clubs in Scotland’s top two leagues would all pay a fee dependant on turnover per annum. Allowing the SFA to reinvest in the training, facilities and staff available.
Just a couple of thoughts to change the game for the better.