Football Associations

Welsh Football Trust

The Coach Diary had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Jamie Clewer Regional Development Coordinator of the Welsh Football Trust.

Q. What is the WFT?

The Welsh Football Trust is responsible for the development of the game in Wales for boys and girls up to the age of 16 and also for Disability Football across all ages. The Football Association of Wales, its member Area Associations and Junior Leagues then regulate and administer the game across Wales. The Trust is effectively the Technical department of the FAW as we are also responsible for all player development (up to 16) and Coach Education from Level 1 – 5. It was setup as a separate body to protect funding for the development of the game here in Wales regardless of the fluctuation in results of our senior international team.

Q. Do you think youth football in Ireland, Scotland, and UK needs a drastic revamp and how did Wales change their system?

There has been a lot of coverage in the media around youth development recently. We are strong in our convictions that we have already started to address these issues in Wales. We have played compulsory small sided games maximum of 8v8 up to Under 11 with no competitive leagues since 1997. We in 2009, introduced compulsory 4v4 (No GK) and 5v5 (GK included) at Under 7s and 8s respectively.

This season, this has continued with Under 9s playing 6v6. Our plans are for next season are to complete the restructure with U10s playing 7v7 and U11 playing 8v8s (as they currently do). All Mini Football remains without competitive leagues. As part of this restructure the Trust and FAW invested in one set of mini pop goals for every junior club in Wales (550) to assist them with the change.

Alongside Mini Football we have our ‘Behind the Line, Behind the Team’ campaign promoting good parent and coach behaviour including our own version of the FA Respect Barrier concept.

It is our intention, when our Under 7s from the 2009/10 season reach Under 12 (2014) that we will introduce 9v9 (This will be the first age group to have played right through our new mini football structure). We are also considering extending this to Under 13 as some leagues run a two year age bracket in Wales due to our rural nature. The concept of 9v9 is yet to be ratified by the FAW council; however it is our intention to develop a model that works for Wales by consulting widely and looking at other nations.

Q. Why have changes been made?

  1. Emphasise on raising standard of play, to develop more technically capable players. Give players an opportunity to have more touches on the ball and make more decisions in a game related situation.
  2. UEFA at the Grassroots Conference 2009 emphasised the importance of providing age specific activity for children starting with small sided games.
  3. Better environment – Free from the pressure of playing to win with an over emphasis on adult influenced competitiveness. The game situation is challenge enough and children are inherently competitive.
  4. Children must have enjoyment regardless of ability if they are going to stay in the game.
  5. Raise standard of play at national level.

At the UEFA Grassroots Conference 2009, Hamburg, Germany – Children’s Football (Under 12)

All football up to the age of 12 years old, UEFA stated

Key aims:

  • Help children to be healthy, happy and challenged.
  • Help children express themselves through football.

Q. How should the game be played?

  • up to U8 – 2v2, 3v3, 4v4
  • up to U10 – 4v4, 5v5, 7v7
  • up to U12 – 7v7, 9v9, 11v11

Can be split into two phases:

Fun Phase – up to Under 8 –

Aims of the ‘fun’ phase:

  • Basic skill development
  • Maximum ball contact
  • Fascination for the game
  • Small group coordination
  • Desire to learn
  • Develop less ‘me’ – more ‘we’
  • Have fun with friends.

Foundation Phase – 9 to 12 years old.

Aims of the foundation phase:

  • Ball mastery
  • Reading the game
  • Understand basic principles
  • Speed, coordination, mobility
  • Team identity
  • Imagination
  • Love of the game

Some Interesting Facts

  • 4v4 average findings (against 8v8):
  • 38 more passes
  • 35 more 1v1 encounters
  • 29 more dribbling opportunities (tricks/turns)
  • 32 more shots
  • 20 more goals

(Martin Diggle – Bolton Wanderers)

The Benefits of 4v4

Don’t over emphasise the statistics! They just provide hard evidence behind the theory.

Key message: In a 4v4 situation the game produced more of each technique/skill – the players got to practice technique and develop technique into a skill through competition.

8v8 in 20 minutes: 2 passes by Page

More Benefits of 4v4

  • American research studying comparing 4v4 against 8v8 (female players) to emphasise the far greater number of opportunities a player will receive in a 4v4 situation.
  • In the 8v8 situation Page made only two passes in 20 minutes, on both occasions, she gave the ball away to the opposition.
  • In the 4v4 game she made 29 passes, she still gave possession away occasionally, but she had 27 more opportunities to learn from the mistake, practice technique and hopefully learn to make the right decision.
  • 4v4 in 20 minutes 29 Passes:- See total passes by Page
  • 27 more opportunities to practice the passing technique and when, who to pass to and how to pass.
  • In the 4v4 game she made 29 passes, she still gave possession away occasionally, but she had 27 more opportunities to learn from the mistake, practice technique and hopefully learn to make the right decision.
  • 27 more opportunities to practice the passing technique and when, who to pass to and how to pass.

Q. What does it mean for the Player?

  • Better technique’ – more touches of the ball.
  • ‘More enjoyment’ – more involved in the game.
  • ‘Better concentration’ – always in the action.
  • ‘Greater understanding’ – more learning from decisions.
  • More movement – fewer players, more space.

Q. How do you educate the coaches?

A side from this we run free coaching workshops for all U7,8 and 9 coaches to educate them about small sided games and show them conditioned games they can use in training to assist the development of player technique, skill and understanding. These workshops also contribute to revalidation of coaches level 1 coaching certificate.

The last initiative I would like to make you aware of is the FAW Club Accreditation Scheme, which is mandatory for all junior clubs in Wales. The basic premise of this is that every team who plays mini and junior football in Wales must have a qualified level 1 coach, first aider and all people involved with the team must be CRB checked.

Q. How do you convince them, this works?

In reality Antonio we know that people will agree and people will disagree with our philosophy, that is the great thing about football it is full of opinions. We try our upmost to educate people on our philosophy and the reasons and rationale for structuring Mini football in the way we do.

After 13 years of having no structured competitive leagues up to U 11s it is now engrained in our junior football. Football is competitive and should always remain that way; I personally don’t like the term ‘non-competitive’ it isn’t an accurate reflection of what football is. But it seems to be the best way of explaining that there should be no organised competitions and league tables for children Under 11.

Q. Kids are naturally competitive, aren’t they?

We believe that the game itself is competition enough, the children when they leave the pitch know if they have won, lost or drawn and they feel the full range of emotions as a consequence. As well as developing better players technically we also have to respect that the vast majority of players are always going to be grassroots players and play because they enjoy football.

Children these days have so many different activities to take up their leisure time, playing football in the park is only one of a long list!

What we are trying to create is a replication of this. When we played football with friends there were winners and losers but we didn’t have league tables to tell us this. The next day we would go out and play again regardless of what happened the time before because we enjoyed football.

Collating league tables and top goal scorer charts etc is adult organisation being imposed on a child’s activity. I often hear the argument that football can’t be non-competitive and I completely agree!

“The game itself is competition enough, there is plenty of time for children to participate in organised leagues and cups as they grow older and understand better the concept of winning and losing”.


Like our neighbours Scotland, The Welsh Football Trust has to be applauded for what they are doing, this is a massive project to undertake and you have read how much they believe in it. Ireland with the help of Clubs, Coaches and Associations it can be done and the game can be fun again, we can develop even better technical players without the emphasis on winning. We need to get onboard and follow what are Celtic brothers are doing for their game, we can restructure our small side game for the benefit of all who play it.

I wish to thank Jamie Clewer and The Welsh Football Trust for giving me his time and helping with this article; I would like to wish them the best for the future.

You can find more information about Mini Football in Wales on their website there are also a number of video’s and resources in the Mini Football section use the menu on the left side to find them.