New registration system announced for 2023/2024
Now chaired by FAI Director of Football Marc Canham, the FAI’s Underage Working Group led the consultation process involving representatives of the SFAI, Grassroots governing bodies and affiliates, the League of Ireland academies, provincial administrators and independent experts.
The UWG has now reached agreement on three new ‘best practice’ changes to the registration and movement of players in Grassroots and League of Ireland football which will optimise the options available to all players.
The pilot changes were proposed by the FAI’s Underage Working Group, recommended by the FAI Executive and ratified by the Board of the FAI as part of the implementation of the FAI Strategy 2022-2025 which includes a mission statement to nurture football pathways for all and enable every player to reach their full potential.
The changes will apply from 1st December 2022, start date of the 2023 Summer Season, on a pilot basis for one Winter and one Summer season with an ongoing review process to take place throughout each season. All parties involved in this collaboration have agreed on new registration periods, on the timing of the end of the Summer and Winter Season registration periods and on the removal of the ‘closed months’ of July and December.
The first change to the regulations sees a reduction in the number of registration windows across the various strands of the game with the objective of providing uniformity and consistency across the whole game. The second change has been agreed to create an enhanced solution for the registration of U14 players transitioning from Grassroots to the League of Ireland.
Agreement has been reached between the SFAI and League of Ireland clubs to allow LOI Academies register players at the end of the U13 Winter Season to create certainty over squads for Grassroots teams moving into the U14 age group.
Players moving from a Winter Season in Grassroots to play with LOI Clubs may register from 1st July 2023, i.e. at the end of the preceding Winter Season so as to minimise disruption to Grassroots teams & Inter League squads. Players moving from a Summer Season will do so as normal at the end of their season.
The third change sees a reduction in the steps required to register and re-register players – simplifying a process that previously involved 5 steps across player/parent, clubs and leagues, down to a three-step process involving the player/parent, and clubs.
These changes will be implemented as part of the roll out of FAI Connect in the coming weeks. Welcoming this development, FAI Director of Football Marc Canham said: “The new registration processes are the results of months of really constructive and co-operative discussion, consultation and commitment from every stakeholder across Grassroot adult and underage football, the SFAI, League of Ireland clubs and their underage academies. I want to thank them all for their openness to change and their willingness to work together in such a positive and willing manner. From the outset, all involved with our Underage Working Group recognised that the most important person in all of this work is the player and everything we are announcing today is with the player’s wellbeing front and centre. The new process is player focussed and player friendly and that is, I believe, a sign of real progress for our game and for the future of Irish football at all levels.”
FAI Grassroots Director Ger McDermott commented: “I am delighted that all parts of the game have come together in an open and progressive manner to agree these changes. Simply put, players at all levels just want to play football to the best of their ability and continue to enjoy doing so. Simplifying our processes and aligning all strands of the game from a registration perspective is the first significant step in ensuring our structures and pathways will encourage and support participation growth and player retention. I look forward to further dialogue as we work to further enhance our structures to grow the game further.”
FAI Director and Schoolboys/Schoolgirls Football Association of Ireland Executive Member Tom Browne, chair of the FAI’s Underage Committee, remarked: “This pilot scheme is a most welcome development and reflects the desire of the SFAI to do what is best for every young boy and girl who wants to play football to the very best of their ability right across Ireland. We thank all involved with the Underage Working Group for listening to our viewpoint and taking it on board and we look forward to collaborating with all involved in Irish football to ensure that the young player comes first no matter where they play their football.”
Chair of the FAI’s Youth and Amateur Committee and an FAI Board Member, John Finnegan said: “This is indeed a new start for the game at Grassroots and underage League of Ireland level and the new spirit of co-operation between all concerned is most welcome. The pilot changes to the registration systems will, we believe, make it easier for a player to maximise their desire to play football at the level most suitable to them. We look forward to this pilot programme and to working together to put the best learnings from it into place in the long term.”
League of Ireland Director Mark Scanlon said: “The co-operation between the League of Ireland Academies and the SFAI on the movement of players into and out of our National Underage Leagues represents a sea change in Irish football. We are working together to ensure that all boys and girls have access to the football pathway that best suits their development be that with their local team or a League of Ireland club and that commitment to what is best for each individual player, as represented by this pilot scheme, is to be saluted.”