With growing numbers of football fanatics turning to the small-sided game as a more flexible format to suit modern lifestyles, The FA and the Essex County FA have moved to celebrate its emergence with the introduction of a special accreditation programme, as well as a dedicated small-sided football web page at www.essexfa.com.
Patterns have emerged to suggest that, while 11v11 participation nationwide is on a downward trend, a significant number of players are aligning their football studs with Astroturf trainers. The FA have responded to ensure operators provide the best, and safest, possible experience with the introduction of a new quality kite mark.
The FA Small-Sided Football Accreditation scheme is intended to reward and recognise excellence in the industry but to also assist organisations in raising standards and developing the quality of their structures. It was launched in September of last year and a comprehensive and rigorous assessment process has been developed.
Across the County there are around 1,300 small-sided teams, with a particular density in Essex’s five London Boroughs where there are four commercial centres operating locally. All of these venues are affiliated to the Essex County FA, a dedicated Focus County for small-sided football and Workforce Development Officer Nick Emery has welcomed the pending creation of a specific page on www.essexfa.com to make these formats more accessible.
“Small-sided football offers a flexible alternative to the traditional 11v11,” said Nick. “Football participation has changed over the last few years - the popularity of small-sided football is a reaction to changing work and leisure patterns and a move towards ‘pay and play’ football. Providing it’s affiliated, it offers a great alternative to those players who prefer to keep their weekends free or if they’re looking for an extra bit of fitness during the week.”
This accreditation scheme consists of four stages. Firstly, a self-assessment application form is completed, then there are random visits to venues and leagues followed by a more detailed report, reviewing the business as a whole with suggestions and recommendations offered. The particular strengths of each organisation are highlighted prior to final ratification and the potential award of accreditation by the FA Small-Sided Committee.
To find out more about small-sided accreditation, contact Nick on (01245) 393077or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Small-sided football will be one of the main features in the next issue of Row-Z, the Essex County FA’s online magazine, which is due to be published at the end of February. Further information on all aspects of local football, and access to Row-Z, can be found at www.essexfa.com.