YOUTH football coaches fear a player drain over a ruling that states talented youngsters signed up to elite academies can no longer represent their junior sides.
Organisers from the Russell Foster Youth Football League, which has 600 teams, have confirmed clubs within its structure will now be required to immediately de-register any players who are also signed up to an Elite Player Performance Plan, at a Premier League or Football League Academy.
The ruling could affect the thousands of North East youngsters who lace up their boots every weekend.
The regulation had been included in the FA Standard Code of Rules for Youth Football since the beginning of last season, but after a team recently highlighted the ruling, the league moved to issue clarification.
It means any youngsters registered with Sunderland AFC, Newcastle United or Hartlepool United will not be permitted to play for clubs in the Russell Foster League.
Registration form which need to be filled out when new players sign for teams in the Russell Foster have now been amended to include the stipulation.
A number of coaches and parents have contacted the Echo to speak of their disgust at the change.
The dad of one Sunderland 11-year-old who is signed up to an academy, today labelled the measure as “mad”.
“My son played at the weekend for his Russell Foster team, but then we saw the announcement on the website and realised he and a couple of others won’t be able to play anymore, so they could have to fold,” said the man, who did not want to be named.
“The kids haven’t been given any notice, parents have paid out money for strips and subs for this season, which I think is a real shame.
“It’s going to impact on the younger sides as much as anything.
“Now, if the coaches see scouts on the sidelines at their games they are going to be really worried that they’ll lose their players.”
Dominic Forster, of Herrington Colliery Welfare Under 14s, said: “I think the likes of Sunderland, Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool should get involved in this and try to get the FA to change the rule back.
“It’s the professional clubs who pick up the lads from our teams and they should be giving something back.”
“If some teams have three players who get picked up by professional clubs, they’ll lose out and probably fold not long after.
“A lot of the time they sign these boys then end up releasing them at the end of the season, but if their old team has gone because they didn’t have enough players, who are they going to play for?”
Secretary of Durham County FA, John Topping, said: “Following consultation between the Premier League and its clubs, representatives of the Football League, The Football Association and other key football stakeholders, the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), was introduced.
“At the commencement of the 2013/14 season the following rule was added to the FA Standard Code of Rules for Youth Football and until recently has not been challenged.
“The league rule states “No player registered with a FA Premier League or Football League Academy under the Elite Player Performance Plan will be permitted to play in this competition”.
“Following this recent challenge it has come to light that some clubs have been playing academy players in youth football and the league have been informed that this must cease, as it contravenes FA rules and the EPPP.”