The Football Association has announced a new look Women’s and Girls’ Player Pathway to unearth the very best talent in England while also making the game more diverse, accessible and inclusive.
The transformation of the pathway will increase the number of players and coaches entering high quality training environments and will ensure every talented girl from any part of the country will be given the best opportunity to fulfil her full potential for club or country.
Following an extensive consultation period across the game, the new structure sees up to 70 Emerging Talent Centres (ETCs) established across the country catering for players aged 8-16 who show footballing potential. Since July 2022, 56 ETCs have now launched, with a further 11 confirmed to follow in the coming months, replacing the existing 28 Regional Talent Centres (RTCs) and 10 Advanced Coaching Centres (ACCs).
The changes will see 95% of players accessing an ETC within one hour of where they live by 2024 and the number of young female players engaged in FA talent programmes across the country rise from 1,722 to more than 4,200 by the end of the 2023/24 season.
With the new format the ETCs will have approximately 560 Technical staff, compared to approximately 350 with the RTCs and ACCs.
The latest development in the pathway will now see the launch of a new programme for clubs in the Barclays Women’s Super League and Barclays Women’s Championship, known as FA Professional Game Academies (PGAs). Developed in collaboration with the clubs, they will come to fruition in the 2023/24 season and will cater for the development of talented players between the ages of 14 to 20.
The PGAs will replace the current FA WSL Academies and will improve the readiness of players coming out of the pathway to compete at first team domestic and international level. FA funding will be focused on two age groups for Category 1 clubs and one age group for Category 2 clubs.
Clubs will also have the flexibility to develop their own age groups that supports clubs’ philosophy, ambition and resource.
Kay Cossington, The FA’s Women’s Technical Director, said:
“We have a responsibility to ensure that every young girl who wants to have a career in football has a clear pathway to doing so.
“These changes ensure more focused investment and will address some of the historic challenges many different age groups have faced when trying to access the game. We strive for our game to be more reflective of wider society and making our game more diverse, inclusive and accessible is the central ambition to the restructure of our pathway.
“With more opportunities and a better geographic spread, we are incredibly confident that this will inspire a new generation of Lionesses to flourish and evolve our game for the future.”
The restructured pathway will see opportunities for talented players at different ages and stages:
Emerging Talent Centres
The entry point for talented players. A maximum of 70 centres for players with potential aged 8- 16.
Funded by The FA and The Premier League
Club Funded Programme
Clubs have the flexibility to develop their youth programmes to fit with their philosophy and structure.
Programmes are funded by the club.
Pro Game Academies
Focused upon the development of players aged 14-20 for senior football.
Funded by The FA and the club
Supported by investment from the Premier League, the ETCs will offer increased playing time, varied football formats and allow players to play for both an ETC and a grassroots club, school, or representative team, which is intended to enhance the variety of playing experiences.
This will include an emphasis on girls joining boys in a mixed football environment to aid their development.
The pathway will form a part of The FA’s wider approach to identifying and developing talented female players. The FA last year launched its exciting programme Discover My Talent, which is working to identify talent regardless of their geographical location, background or the community they live in.
Of the thousands of referrals being made through Discover My Talent, 320 players have been identified as a real talent of interest, whilst 75 are now in the final stages of selection for England Teams between the age of U15–U17. This work has been supported by Sport England and UEFA Hattrick funding and is a step-change in how talent is unearthed.
The new structure comes as a result of a three-year Player Pathway Review to assess the existing structure and to ensure that it is able to provide a wide and diverse pool of players ready for senior football.
Relevant stakeholders including players, parents, coaches, and clubs were all engaged, as well as considering research, data, and insight to identify the future direction.