SA youth development hits roadblock until 2016

Adelaide United FC wishes to express its disappointment at the hurdles encountered in the club's attempts to improve the development and standard of aspiring young local footballers.

Adelaide United FC expresses its disappointment at the hurdles encountered in its attempts to improve the development and standard of aspiring young local footballers.

After having its youth development plan rejected, the club wishes to lay out the facts of its intentions and the current situation. At all times Adelaide United respects the right of the FFSA, and its Member Clubs to determine the structure of football in South Australia, we simply represent the State.

From the outset the club wants to make its intentions abundantly clear. In order to secure the best senior playing roster, the club needs to have the best talent identification and development program possible for young South Australian players. As it sits today, young South Australian players are disadvantaged by comparison to their interstate counterparts. To maximise player potential, coaching consistency is a prerequisite over a twelve month period.

Adelaide United FC recognised the failing of the current system and sought to remedy same through an involvement with a local club which would not only have allowed the Reds- Youth team to remain together as a unit, but also enabled players from as young as 8 years of age to be coached under the club-s philosophy. That solution was rejected by Football Federation South Australia (FFSA) and local clubs.

To enable its members to gain an understanding of the challenges, the club provides the following information:

  • Adelaide United FC is South Australia-s team in a national competition and is committed to attracting the State-s best and most committed talent
  • The club does not compete with any local club, has no interest in ‘poaching- players from local clubs, but rather hopes to attract young players who aspire to the highest level of football in South Australia and beyond
  • The ultimate for a young local player is to progress through the Youth team and secure a Hyundai A-League contract. If that fails to materialise, the club would hope that a young player would return to his club of origin in all likelihood a better player for the experience of being at Adelaide United, thus improving the standard of the State-s local competitions
  • Adelaide United has a Club based philosophy and will maintain same
  • The Hyundai A-League takes place in summer whereas the majority of the local leagues are played in winter

    Adelaide United-s National Youth League squad comprises of players identified through performances in all local leagues. The pre season period presents serious challenges for young players due to the conflict of playing in their local competition whilst attempting to be part of the Reds Youth-s preseason training. These issues include:

  • Availability: Many young players, whether on professional contracts or not at their local club, can be denied availability for matches or training by their clubs - permission must be granted at all times. Many clubs provide same while others withhold permission based on their own club training schedule and/or the importance of an upcoming game.
  • Inconsistent coaching methodology: Young players will not maximise their potential under the current system. During preseason many players will train with Adelaide United once or twice a week and his own club for other sessions. This simply leads to confusion for the player as he is subject more often than not to two entirely different coaching styles. Few elite sporting programs would ever contemplate being under two coaches at the same time.
  • Winning versus structure: Adelaide United-s priority is player and structured team development at Youth level and below. As opposed to that philosophy, many local clubs will focus on winning for its own sake as opposed to player development, which is perfectly normal for them to do so.

    As a potential solution, Adelaide United FC and Enfield SC reached an agreement, pending FFSA approval, which provided the following:

  • An agreement which allowed Adelaide United-s Youth Team to play in the local State League. This would ensure continuity of coaching philosophies for a full twelve month period
  • Maintain the existing structure of under age teams at Enfield City
  • Salaries paid to senior players would have been diverted to coaching education for all junior coaches
  • No ‘competition- with existing NTC/FFSA programs as any player selected would have been allowed to join ‘pathway- programs and next talented player/s promoted internally
  • Creation of two ‘elite- coaching environments in Adelaide - meaning more players having access to better coaching which can only benefit the game in this State
  • All coaches to be educated in the Adelaide United philosophy under the direction of a UEFA Pro Diploma qualified coach, Reds head Coach Josep Gombau
  • Talented players to be promoted to next age level (focus on player development not winning trophies)
  • Objective to create more and better talented South Australian players able to play at Hyundai A-League level and beyond
  • Create a better pool of coaches as coaching education is the priority. This then spills them into the local competition and creates higher coaching standards in FFSA competitions

    This proposal was rejected by the FFSA and its member clubs.

    Discussions were then held between Adelaide United, Football Federation Australia and FFSA. Adelaide United proposed that its Youth Team play in the local Premier League. That solution was rejected by FFSA and a compromise transitional proposal was put forward by Adelaide United which was as follows:

  • Adelaide United-s Youth squad of players aged 18 years and under to be allowed to play in Premier League Reserves competition in 2014 with NTC as a feeder team. In 2015 the Reds- Youth Team would play in State League Senior competition with a combined team of younger players plus players coming out of NTC program as a Reserves Team and NTC as the feeder team in Under 18 competition. In 2016 the same format would be followed to enter the local Premier League competition.

    This compromised transitional proposal was rejected by a combined meeting of FFSA and member clubs. Instead an alternative position was presented to Adelaide United FC by FFSA which was as follows:

  • Adelaide United to be invited to enter an U/17 team (players turning 17 in 2014) in the Premier League Reserves competition to play on Wednesday nights for the 2014 season only with no guarantees of anything beyond.

    Adelaide United FC has since rejected that position as it simply does not serve any practical purpose in the medium to long term. Adelaide United FC respects the decision of FFA, FFSA and member clubs on this matter, albeit being inconsistent with what exists interstate.

    Young players in South Australia are not afforded the same opportunity as elsewhere. The club will continue to source the best opportunities for those whose talent demands selection in its National Youth League squad. The realisation of a young person-s football talent and the chance for them to do something with it should take priority for all.