Opinions split over rule banning top youth footballers from the Russell Foster league

Russell Foster Junior League Fixtures at Farringdon School' - South Shields Terriers (blue) v Byers Green Haze.

Russell Foster Junior League Fixtures at Farringdon School' - South Shields Terriers (blue) v Byers Green Haze.

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NEWS that talented young Wearside footballers who get picked up by pro academies will no longer be able to play for their junior sides has split opinion.

The Echo reported yesterday that the Russell Foster Youth Football League, which has 600 teams, has 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 controversial regulation had been included in the FA Standard Code of Rules for Youth Football since the beginning of last season, but after a team in the Russell Foster recently highlighted the ruling, the league moved to issue clarification this week.

Registration forms which need to be filled out when new players sign for teams in the Russell Foster have now been amended to include the stipulation.

Parents and coaches have said they are unhappy at the ruling, believing it will drain talent away from junior teams and prevents youngsters from playing alongside their pals.

An online Echo poll found 77 per cent thought youngsters should still be allowed to play in the league even if they are signed to academies.

Reader a1970man commented on the Echo’s website: “In a normal week the kids could play for two or three academies (Hartlepool, Darlington, Sunderland, Newcastle, Man U, Middlesbrough, etc.), the school, two local teams, academy matches on a Saturday and the Russell Foster League on a Sunday.

“Naturally the kids love it, but at 11 and 12 years of age they are building up problems for later life.

“You can play too much which leads to serious knee, hip and back problems in later life.”

Another reader, johnjoe, argued: “This rule happens everywhere else so why not the Russell Foster League?

“I’ve been involved in kids’ football for a number of years now and I’ve witnessed parents and kids literally saying “you can’t tackle me I’m in an academy.”

Readers also took to the Echo’s Facebook page to give their view on the issue.

Shaun Hood wrote: “Horrendous rule. Not the kids’ fault that they are more talented than others.

“Why should they suffer?”

Martin Green agreed, saying: “You build your team up from a young age, develop some of them into academy standard and then they are no longer allowed to play with their mates because of this rule? 
“The participation and making friends is just as important.”

James Douglas wrote: “Let kids be kids and if they’re still showing promise at 13,14,15 then let that be the case! The fact is a lot of young lads go to clubs early and getting released is a big thing so let them play as much as they can and most of all enjoy it.”

Anth Jobling argued: “All players under FA rules should be allowed to play in any school or league they wish to play for whatever talent they possess.

“Pro clubs should encourage this and the scouting system needs to change dramatically in this country.”