LIMERICK FC manager Martin Russell has stressed the benefits of switching the schoolboy soccer season to run from March through to November as recommended in formulating the FAI’s new National Player Development Plan.
The schoolboy soccer season at present runs from September until May. However, a recently published briefing document prepared for clubs and leagues around the country has recommended moving towards a consistent football calendar from March to November across all under-age leagues.
An FAI Technical Advisory Group, which included Limerick FC boss Martin Russell as the SSE Airtricity League representative, have recommended changing the schoolboy season as it would result in many benefits, such as player development being improved through playing on better quality surfaces and weather circumstances, less matches being cancelled, evening matches can be spread out, better access to players in off season for the Emerging Talent Programme, more spectators being able to attend and pitches being protected in the winter.
The technical group say a number of leagues around the country, who have already moved to a calendar season, Clare, Roscommon and Mayo, have reaffirmed the benefits.
However, any change in the season would see the schoolboy soccer (catering for 6 to 16-year-olds) season clash with much of the GAA’s underage season. Equally, a change to the soccer season would also avoid the current scheduling clash with the underage rugby season.
The briefing document as part of the National Player Development Plan recognises that ‘this is a considerable change and will present challenges’. Further consultation will ‘take place with all leagues to discuss the proposal and agree the best way forward.’
Limerick FC manager Martin Russell said: “I sat on the technical committee and it I think it makes a lot of sense to play the schoolboy games in the good weather.
“As it is, the majority of schoolboy games are being called off in the winter, anyway and players end up playing two games in the week in early summer.
“I am looking forward to that change being made. I think it is long overdue.
“There is always resistance. I know some leagues have gone and changed to the summer season already with success doing it.
For me it has to happen, there is too much going in its favour. Senior soccer in the League of Ireland has changed season. The majority of people now realise that the better weather is the time to play your season.”
A consultation process with clubs and leagues around the country is underway following the publication of the briefing document.”