In my local football association, the leagues are “non-competitive” up until age 12. Although, having said this, go down to any sideline at an under 6 game and I bet you most parents will know the score. The competitions after the age of 11 start to keep track of results, tables and also gradings. Now there is grading for U9s and above, but the divisions are separated into the last names of Socceroo’s and Mathilda’s rather than 1st, 2nd, 3rd. I think this is a nice addition as it promotes Australian Football and provides kids with an idol to look up to. But from the age of 12 the association is basically telling players whether they are good or not so good at football.
But I am just thinking out loud (or more specifically on a keyboard) what if our association had a non-competitive comp throughout the winter season? would it and could it be beneficial to football in the community? Social 5 – aside football has recently taken off in the area with new competitions opening up every off season. Futsal has been branded as a fun way to play football on a smaller scale. The fields are smaller, less players, smaller goals and shorter game duration, with rules in place to keep the game flowing. So, could this translate to normal football?
Why have a non-competitive league in the first place? Well, I believe that local football is losing players as a result of the fun being taken out of it. As we get older the outcome of a match becomes more important than the enjoyment of the game. I have spoken to a few people who said they quit the game once they got to all ages because it got to serious even at the lower divisions in all ages. I personally think that having a non-competitive league would increase retention and maybe attract new players as well. The more people playing the sport the better, someone may play it because all their friends are playing it and may go on to be a lifelong contributor.
How would this all work? Well, for starters there would have to be some changes. Firstly, no slide tackling. Slide tackling is one of the most dangerous parts of the game and for people to have fun it also needs to be safe. Futsal has survived for many years without allowing slide tackles and there is no reason that normal football can’t be the same.
No injury or stoppage time, within reason. I say this because if it is non-competitive then the timing should not be as important, and you do not want non-competitive games delaying competitive ones where seconds on the clock might make a difference. Having said this if someone is being substituted and they take forever to get off the pitch or the opposition constantly makes substitutions in the last 5 minutes to whined down the clock then exceptions could be made and perhaps the game would be allowed to carry on a little longer.
Unlimited substitutions. Football is for everyone and everyone should get an equal opportunity to play. This is a lot easier when you are not limited by not only the amount substitutes you can make but who you can substitute.
Self-appointed match officials. Each team will referee one half. Match officials at community level are very scarce and there would be no point wasting an official on a non-competitive match.
Reduced registration fees. This would be largely attributed to not having a match official. Without the need to pay a match official there is no need to pay them and you would therefore expect to this to be accounted for in the registration fees.
A higher priority given to competitive teams. This is more for wet weather situations where some grounds are called out, some are called in and the association has to decide who plays where. At the moment, the higher the division the higher the priority. However this may not be an issue in the future if all or most of the fields are converted to artificial grass that can be played on in all conditions.
No tables or finals. Its non-competitive. NON-competitive. Tables and finals are what makes a game competitive in the first place. You can’t really have both. Leagues would be separated by age throughout the juniors up until they get to all age. They would then be randomly pitted against each other as they would have been assumed to have a random amount of skill level throughout the team.
My final verdict on this inconclusive. There is not a large enough data set to 100% say that the main reason players are leaving the sport are because it is to serious. If there was an overwhelming amount of people leaving the sport for that reason then Yes, it should be something for the association to consider. But if its not and they decide to do it then they may not retain the players are losing and could even drive others away. In addition to this the association that is mostly run by volunteers and this wole process may waste an immense amount of time trying to set it all up only for it not to work.
The only way to find out if players are leaving because it is to competitive is to ask them. The only way to do that is to survey them, and we all know how much people love to do surveys. The surveys would have to be conducted at the start of the new season, it could be attached to a prompt to play football again. If the individual says that they are not playing, then it could supply a drop down menu full of all the options that people have previously supplied for not playing. Non-returning players could also supply more than just one reason for not playing as that could potentially be the case.
All in all I think that it could have a benefit on local football as long as it is addresses the issue. If the association did not carry out the proper research and still went forward with the idea then I think it could have the opposite effect. Therefore increasing the dropout rate, decreasing new players and being a massive waste of time.