U19 Football – A Sorry State Of Affairs

If you caught up with our Good Week/Bad Week article this week, you’d know that the deadline for confirmed registrations for competing in the 2017 Junior (U19) season was on Monday.

That’s right. A little over three weeks before the season is due to start, and the British American Football Association has yet to fully confirm alignments or schedules.

Coaches and players have been up in arms on social media about the lack of clarity coming from BAFA HQ, with parents unable to book holidays and coaches placating their players hoping that SOMETHING will come out soon.

But actually, we’re not about to lambaste BAFA.

Sure, the deadline for confirmed registrations could have been much, much earlier. Yes, the supposed ‘lead’ at this level of ‘ball has seemingly vanished, leaving everything to BAFA Director of Competition, Russ Hewitt – who’s likely feeling a little overworked as he’s also in the midst of finalising the adult league schedule and the University playoffs.

However, a quick look at the latest updated registration position from BAFA shows the fault lies with the teams, coaches, players and community as much, if not more so, as it does the National Governing Body.

In our article of 6 February, showing the indicative structure, we had 24 teams lined up to play Junior football in 2017. This has reduced to 23 as we know Cambridgeshire Cats have withdrawn.

Of the remaining teams, two of those sides had registered ZERO players and ZERO coaches on CRS by the time of the deadline. In March. One month prior to the season starting. Furthermore, with the majority of teams starting training at the turn of the year, and with the insurance policy allowing for three training sessions before registering on CRS?

This means that teams have been training without insurance cover, putting players and coaches at risk.

Including the two sides with nobody registered at all, 10 of the 23 sides had less than seven players registered. SEVEN.

Two sides had 8-16 players registered, with 11 sides having 20 or more players registered. We won’t name and shame the teans who haven’t registered sufficient players.

One of the few proactive sides in registering players on CRS - East Kilbride Pirates
One of the few proactive sides in registering players on CRS – East Kilbride Pirates

Instead, we look to East Kilbride Pirates, Birmingham Lions and Solent Seahawks who all have gone out and registered more than 30 players each (50+ in the case of EKP). It’s clearly possible for programmes to establish highly successful and sustainable development programmes… so why are so few programmes achieving it?

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Further to the competitive sides, BAFA listed four affiliate sides in the update. Of these, only ONE had registered more than one player (18). Two sides hadn’t registered any at all, with the remaining side having registered just one player. None of the four sides had a registered coach on CRS.

Hopefully, official word from BAFA is coming imminently. As is stands, we might potentially see only eleven U19 sides competing in 2017.

#TeamDC is already aware of two or three sides with low numbers that are almost certainly withdrawing from competition. But why has it taken so long? If a side has been low on numbers all year, the decision to call it quits should have been made weeks ago.

By withdrawing so late in the day, it’s a slap in the face for the proactive sides who made sure they were in position to compete early on.

With young adults being the demographic this game is most suited for, why is it that the UK developmental game seems to be in crisis? What can programmes be doing to right the ship?

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Rob Amor

Rob somehow fits Britball around a hectic life of work, newborns, and rare, blissful, moments of quiet in which to nap. Rob stepped down from the Birmingham Bulls committee at the end of 2016 and walked away after 10 years at the club. He leads DC’s Adult league coverage and dabbles in a bit of BUCS. Follow him on Twitter – @RobAmorDC