A parent believes her daughter’s football development is being ‘downgraded’ as the FA begin to implement plans to re-structure girls’ football.
The Football Association revealed its plans in February in response to a lack of female players progressing through the existing centres of excellence pathway into the full England senior squad.
Concerns over travelling distances in the east means the region will follow in the footsteps of a pilot in the South West region that will see centres of excellence, such as the one at Norwich City where Cate Hubbard’s daughter Eva from Mellis, currently plays, closed from the end of this season — a year earlier than proposals for the rest of the country.
Hartismere School pupil Hubbard is set to see her elite training reduced from four hours a week and around 20 matches to one hour a week and only a guaratee of ‘at least six matches’ in a scheme designed to push her back into grassroots football with mixed gender teams.
“Understandably Eva has been devastated by this news and it has been a double blow as she was in the under-12s at Ipswich Town FC Centre of Excellence when they had their licence withdrawn and had to retrial to join Norwich,” said her mother Cate.
“I feel very strongly that the closure of the centre in Ipswich had a negative impact on girls’ football in Suffolk and I know that all the Norwich parents are aware and upset that girls’ football in Norfolk will also be affected.”
But the FA’s head of women’s elite development, Brent Hills, said: “These changes will enhance the way we identify and develop elite female footballers.
“The Centre of Excellence programme has shown that clubs require the opportunity to grow and develop at different rates according to their facilities, infrastructure and grassroots system.”
Nationally, the plan is to move to close all centres of excellence by the 2016/17 season and replace them with a ‘regional talent programme’ that will have three tiers.