Football is the nations most popular sport, with over 13 million of the nation participating regularly. I am of one these statistics; I have played since I was eight playing for clubs such as Gillingham, Charlton and Fulham participating in such prestigious tournaments as the world youth club and Manchester United world skills final. Billions of pounds are pumped into the beautiful game every year making it the most funded team sort in England. Money comes not only from television rights but also from the National Lottery and Mc Donald’s amongst others.
I have a great deal of praise for grass roots as it got me where I am today. Football is started nowadays at a very early age in a majority of schools as a recreational activity for young children. Grass roots development is absolutely essential to introducing the young into the sport of football this can be within schools or local clubs. At school the national Curriculum demands children to participate in sport, many schools opt to play football due to a great interest, because it is easy to set-up it is a safe environment and also because it is cheap (all you need is a ball and something representing a goal) Football also encourages children to mix ranging from ethnic backgrounds to talent it also develops a leadership and team player qualities. Therefore there is a tremendous amount of provision for footballers at this young age.
However there is the on going battle about school fields being sold for profit, especially in built up area’s in London. But as a result many people fund schools providing football equipment, in particular Mc Donald’s have an especially unique idea McDonald’s pledged to give 1,000 footballs to schools in Manchester for every goal the Red Devils scored, and a 1,000 in London for every goal the Gunners scored in the Community Shield. 400 schools will now be put on the ball and have new footballs to practise with as a result.Outside of school grassroots takes the form of local sides which start at about the age of 7, football courses run by local clubs i.e. Charlton and Arsenal or by organisations such as the FA or Coerver Coaching. Through these external activities children can be spotted to play at a higher level, firstly though they will have to join a team.
There are over 75,000 teams in England, in our area Cranbrook, Beneden, Tenterden, Staplehurst and Hawkhurst all offer teams from about Under 9’s to Under 16’s. From a local side in a local league (look in the appendix to see the huge amount of teams) you generally move to a team such as Maidstone or Tunbridge Wells etc (a town rather than village) from here you may get scouted to play for a professional club, a professional club is limited to a squad of 22 and every professional club in the country has one advancing from there you may be one of the lucky 11 to represent your country. I will now go onto this in more detail.
The Pathway For the Elite Athlete
All footballers start at grassroots football; if they are good enough they will be selected for their school team (permitting their school plays football). If they are interested in playing more football there is a variety of clubs, previously mentioned, that they can choose from. There are two routes for the elite athlete; the first is the school route. You play for your school and then your district and then the county followed by the national schoolboy side. The other is the club route, from a local club team to representing the league to an academy to their first team. I will now go into these routes in more depth. The club may be at a low level of representation or a higher level i.e. Maidstone a town team opposed to a village team such as Cranbrook., a scout can invite you for a trial at a professional club and If you are successful you will be offered a contract.
Meanwhile through school you can go for district trials and get into the district team (the district team for this area is Ashford) and then through the district manager go for County trials. Upon Success county level can lead onto Schoolboy representation but usually you would be at a professional club by now should you be this good. This is due to the fact County football is of a considerable less standard then that of a professional club. Once contracted at a club you hope to keep developing until it comes to the stage you are regularly representing the first team in one of the country’s top leagues. Finally with a few good seasons you could very well find yourself in the national senior team. The flow diagram (on the last page) should make it easier too understand.
Male of Female preference?
Women’s football 20 years ago was not as popular as it is today, 10 years ago it was frowned upon(mainly by men as they saw it as their sport after all they didn’t want to play netball) but recently it has slowly developed, following g success in the states. In 1990 there were only 20 teams in the southeastern counties league now there is over 200 clubs all over the country. But in comparison to the 50,000+ men’s teams it is quite clearly not yet an equal sport despite a significant number of women’s’ football clubs in the UK. This number is increasing every day through publicity generated by films such as ‘Bend it like Beckham’.
However, this increase in popularity amongst girls and women is not being fully grasped upon, as women are not given the same opportunity to play football at school as boys. Also, the media coverage of women’s’ football is almost entirely non-existent and women professional footballers’ pay is on a huge disparity with that of men. The only regular women’s football on TV is the FA cup; in stark comparison there is a live match from one of the men’s leagues on every day. The nearest girls club is Tenterden Tigers, Angley school also has a girls team and I’m informed they play a few times each season, however they only have 1 team covering all the girls from al years, the boys have a team for each year. In my Opinion Football is 90% favoured towards men.