JFLA Rovers AC

Focus on youth football leads to increase in player numbers

EFFORTS to encourage more youngsters to become involved in football have led to an increasing number of players.

In 2016, a partnership between senior representatives from football and sponsor Ravenscroft saw the launch of the Football for Everyone programme which aims to develop the sport by enabling and encouraging participation of both boys and girls of all abilities.

‘The shared ambition to encourage more youngsters to develop a passion for football and stay part of the game for years to come, whether that’s on the field or on the side lines, has continued to deliver results which have exceeded expectations,’ said CEO of Guernsey Football Association Gary Roberts.

‘We have seen an increase in the number of girls attending the Ravenscroft Players Development Centre and as a result added an extra session to cope with the demand. The number of players registered to take part in the Ravenscroft Youth Leagues has increased 17% and more than 90 young people have completed the Junior Football Leaders course, which aims to create the next generation of volunteers. We couldn’t have done that with the support of the clubs, the schools and of course from Ravenscroft.’

The Girls Players Development Centre now runs on Mondays at St Sampson’s High School and on Wednesdays at Styx. Girls from five to 11 can attend the sessions and once they have completed 10 weeks, they are presented with their own kit.

‘It has been fantastic to see all the girls turn up in their purple kits and the newcomers have been excited about the prospect of earning their own kits too,’ said Guernsey FA women & girls football development officer Joelle Pengelley.

‘Each week the girls can’t wait to get the footballs out and start playing, which is so positive to witness, and to see the continued growth in numbers and new girls coming along is very rewarding’. 

Miss Pengelley said that since the centre started in 2016, 16 players have graduated to the Girls Academy and that more of the girls were now playing in school teams.

‘These girls are developing a lifelong love of football and we have overcome the barrier that football is seen as a boys sport. Some of the older girls are being asked by their teachers to play in the school football team with the boys, which shows a massive change in mind set by the schools and also the boys who are playing alongside them,’ she said.

‘With the support of Ravenscroft, we have been able to develop an environment where it is acceptable for girls to enjoy football and many of them have a great amount of talent and passion for the sport. The future of women and girls football in Guernsey is very bright.’

The Ravenscroft Youth Leagues have also seen an increase in the number of youngsters taking part reaching 700 for the first time. In the first year of the Football for Everyone initiative, 598 players registered which increased to 667 last season and 700 for this season.

The introduction of the under 15 league last season aims to reduce player drop out by having a single year age group from under 13 through to under 16. This year, for the first time, Rovers and Sylvans have enough players to enter two teams into the under 18 league.

This season has also seen the first time that the Junior Football Leaders course, which shows youngsters what else other than physically playing happens in football with the aim of encouraging more people to get involved, has been run in Alderney.

‘The course in Alderney was the first of its kind to be delivered outside of Guernsey. The Alderney FA was very proactive in approaching the GFA to organise this course and did very well to make sure that the course was well attended and also arranged for young players to be available for the practical sessions. This course has also sparked an interest on the island to potentially run the FA Level 1 Coaching course at some stage in the future. There were a total of 11 candidates on the course who will now complete four hours of volunteer coaching with the Alderney FA in order to complete the qualification,’ said Guernsey Football Association football development officer Angus Mackay.

Mark Bousfield, group managing director of Ravenscroft, said the results showed what could be achieved through a collaborative approach.

‘Guernsey is fortunate to have so many people who are dedicated to ensuring that football has a bright and successful future. Over the last three years, the Football for Everyone initiative has delivered increasing numbers of young people getting involved in the sport and Ravenscroft is thrilled that our support has played a part in enabling that to happen,’ he said.