The recent National Competitions Review recommendations had better work.
Instead of a cap on fees payable by youth players, there is to be a points system implemented to encourage home grown products. Time will tell what effect this has on the football economy because, to state the bleeding obvious, change is desperately needed.
Kids are being overcharged. Some academies are selling dreams for exorbitant fees - with some agents selling overseas trials to hopeful but misguided parents for upwards of five or six thousand dollars, which is an absolute disgrace. And the grab for dollars goes even deeper.
Recently, in Sydney, it came to my attention that some parents are paying large amounts of money to the club under the table for their child to play in elite teams.
In at least one instance that I'm aware of, someone has paid tens of thousands of dollars to a club to coach its elite youth team, despite not being qualified for the role.
These are two examples that reflect the flawed economy of junior football that is plaguing our game, as greedy clubs heap larger burdens on vulnerable parents.
It has to stop, because it is selling off the future to fund today.
If any club is so desperate to stay afloat that it is prepared to allow someone to pay his way into an elite youth team coaching position, rather than earn it the proper way, they are not only a disgrace to football for selling out the game, but are clearly in a financially parlous state.
It would be better for the game if that club closed its doors rather than prostitute the quality of environment and education being provided to our future generations of players. Anyone with knowledge of such a situation should immediately alert the association, state body and Football Federation Australia (FFA).
How can we call ourselves a game of high standards when a parent is being charged several thousand dollars his child's football development, only for the person in charge of that education to have gained the position by paying for it?
The opportunity to be able to shape the football development of a child or youth player is a gift that must be taken more seriously, for every mistake limits the chances of a boy or girl to make a career in the game. Selling such a position to the highest bidder goes against every principle of decency, integrity and value the game stands for.
Nor is 'opportunity' merely a term that can be used without understanding the ramifications for a child's life. In Outliers Malcolm Gladwell argues that being chosen in an elite program sets off a potentially virtuous cycle in a child's life and ultimately career.
The author calls this 'accumulative advantage', where the child enters a better learning environment with (hopefully) better coaches, facilities and a greater frequency of training.
This allows the chosen child to progress above those excluded, making them more likely to be selected the following years in better positions, creating a cycle that eventually raises the child's ability.
Unfortunately in our system, money is allowing mediocre performers to enter the system ahead of more talented children who can't afford to.
Every time we choose a development squad or first team at any age, we assume a responsibility that can make immense positive impact on a child's life. A child's future should never be for sale.
It is imperative that we train thousands more child educators for our grass roots clubs. To that end the cost of coaching courses must fall. That cost is ultimately passed on to the parents in one form or another and any parent entering the game is entitled to believe their child is being given the best possible chance to succeed.
The thought of someone without the skills, paying for the privilege of guiding talented kids, makes me sick to the core. Absolute filth, and a stain on the game. Both the payer, and payee.
By the same token, I am reliably informed that the practice of people paying for their children to be a part of these elite squads is alive and well.Any club that sells a position in an elite youth squad should be shut down, the management prosecuted for destroying the integrity of the game and life bans handed around.
How many truly gifted talents are missing out because clubs are selling positions in elite squads to stay alive?
It is difficult to quantify the damaging effect on the future of our game when these deplorable practices are going on.
For those clubs and administrators who argue that they need to prostitute the heart of the game to keep their club alive, do all of us a favor by closing the doors and throw away the key. The game neither wants nor needs you.
You have not the first concept of what football is about.
Let’s ensure that we start promoting the best talents, charging them the least possible, ceasing the practice of passing on the cost of Premier League teams to the children below and work together to develop a system that is of higher quality, fairer and cheaper, for all.
Our future depends on it.
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