This isn’t part of Ms. Crouch’s remit, is it?
No, it isn’t. But during the evidence taking process, concerns about the way that some groups of players are treated were expressed time and time again, and those concerns were so serious that Ms. Crouch felt that they could not be ignored.
Which groups of players?
Predominantly the concerns were about players at either end of the spectrum - young people who were seeking to make a career in football, and those more experienced players who were at the end of their career.
What are the issues with younger players?
Many children dream from a young age about having a career in the game, and in the modern game, clubs are devoting a great deal of time and effort to spotting the most talented, even when they are very young.
Unfortunately, the reality of being talent spotted does not always live up to the dream.
• 99% of children who enter the game’s youth development system do not succeed in being awarded a scholarship
• of the 1% that do make it through this first hurdle, 85% of them are eventually released without securing a professional contract
The default, unfortunately, is that dreams of playing professional football that youngsters naturally have rarely come to fruition
How are they supported if they fail?
This is the nub of the problem. Many young people who experience failure struggle to cope with the consequences. Some have mental health problems (such as depression). Many more feel that the current systems in place don’t really provide adequate support, in terms of helping them to develop their other skills or assess their employment prospects.
It would be wrong to say that there is no support available. But what support is on offer from the Leagues tends to be transitional and focused mainly on education. The evidence from fans and other groups that was submitted to the Review was that the game as a whole needs to do far, far more, given the resources that it has.
What about older or retired players?
Ms. Crouch also looked at this, and some very similar problems were highlighted. One of the points that was made was that not all players leave the game at a time of their choice - some are forced out early due to injury, for example.
These players :
• often experience depression and other mental health problems
• occasionally have problems with addiction
• can have difficulty in adjusting to changed financial circumstances
• have often not planned well for retirement, especially when it happens unexpectedly
• are often reluctant to seek help
Ms. Crouch was very struck by how much unsolicited evidence she heard on these topics, and by how much concern there was that the game as a whole is not doing nearly enough in these areas.
Her recommendation was in three parts :
• the FA, Leagues, PFA and clubs (men and women) need to come together to develop a holistic package of support that should be easily accessible by those players who need it
• that package of support should include elements to address employment, education and mental health issues
• and the FA should make strenuous efforts to ensure that privately run Academies that operate independently outside the system commit to adopting best practice, and affiliate themselves with their local county FA