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  • G. Sarakinis

Score/Standings, Promotion/Relegation in Youth football in Catalonia and how it works.


There have been many debates on published scores and standings and promotion/relegation in youth football. It's a divided group on both sides of the fence. On one side you have your "win at all costs" coach that sacrifices proper development in favour of winning the match. On the other side you have the "impression" that no scores or standings is developing a generation of non competitive players that are leaving the game because of this. What side of the fence are you? Personally, my opinion is that neither has any bearing on proper development directly. Indirectly though there is a problem, normally because of the adults involved, whether that be the coach or the parents.

When I lived in Ontario, Canada I had 2 boys involved in the "old" system of scores, standings, promotion, and relegation. You played in your district until U10. Once the U10 season was complete your placement in U11 was based on where you finished in U10 for the South Region Soccer League(SRSL). At the end of the U13 season, if you were in the top SRSL division then you had the opportunity to be promoted to the Ontario Youth Soccer League (OYSL) for U14. The OYSL was comprised of one tier and 2 geographical divisions and was viewed as the top division for youth soccer for U14-18. On the other hand the younger 2 began in the no scores, standings, no promotion or relegation stream. They trained 3x/week and played in a festival on Saturday. Usually played 2 games and followed the OSA guidelines of 80 minutes game time in a weekend.

OYSL was a decent league and you felt that most of the best players in the province were there. It seems that the "pyramid" was doing its job to funnel players to the top and for most parents it was a clear pathway of how to get there. Some drawbacks were that coaches had the minimum standards required, game days and times were all over the place and I remember coming home at 130am on a school night and had to turn around really fast to start the new day. There were teams that just tried to "grind" out results in whatever way they could, there were teams that tried to play as well. You got a mix of everything.

If you looked at the festival approach, my boys trained 3x week on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday every week. Their games were on Saturday morning, usually one around 9 and another at 1130/12. They were at a centralized site with all the other teams their age. Very good in terms of organization and after some games they tried to tier the teams to play the same calibre of teams. This was based on scores that were kept internally. One thing that was lacking was technical oversight of these festivals. They often had volunteer students in charge of the festivals. There were no technical people watching their teams, watching the other teams. Perhaps if they were watching they could see exactly what needed to be improved, what their coaches were doing, and what the other coaches were doing. There were all kinds of things that coaches would do to circumvent the rules like the retreat line, goal kicks out and a few other things. One might say you had "win at all cost" coaches in the "non competitive" steam of no scores and standings. I always thought this was a lost opportunity for tech people but that's for another day.

Some will ask what do they do here in Catalonia? There are scores, standings, promotion and relegation in youth football. I would also like to say that no system is perfect and there are "win at all cost" coaches everywhere in the world. These coaches are doing a disservice to their youth players but it's often too late when parents realize this. They have won tournaments, leagues and trophies but most do not progress further in the game and people often say what happened to all those players? Usually the answer is that they were never developed properly and won many trophies through physicality and pace. We all know after a certain age, that size and strength alone is not enough. But these attributes at the younger ages will win a coach some trophies if he or she so desires, many do desire this and that is why it happens..

Over here it's pretty simple. Everything is under one stream with the Catalan Football Federation (www.fcf.cat) You can see on their website from Segunda B (third tier of professional football) all the way down to U7-8. There are scores and standing for all groups but promotion/relegation starts at the U9/10 age group. They are 2 year age groups until U19, but they are U8(Prebenjami), U10(Benjami), U12(Alevi), U14(Infantil), U16(Cadet) and finally U19(Juvenil).

I will use the U13/14 age group as the example as U13 is the first age group for OPDL in Ontario. U14 is broken down into: Division of Honour, Preferent, 1st division and 2nd division.

Divison of Honour is 1 division from all of Catalonia and has 16 teams as you can see from the standings below. There is no distinguishing between a pro academy, local town academy, for profit, not for profit. If you are good enough as a club then you would have a team in this division based on footballing merit.

Then there are 4 divisions of Preferent which cover the 4 regions of Catalonia but each division is not solely limited to clubs in the area. They try their best so they can to limit the travel in these groups. There are 4 groups of 16 teams or 64 teams that play in Preferent.

The first division has 18 groups of 16 teams or 288 teams that make up he U13/14 first division.

Finally the 2nd division has 40 groups of 16 teams each to make 640 teams in this tear.

So there are roughly 1000 U13/14 teams in Catalonia in a pyramid of play. Catalonia is only 1 of 19 regions in Spain. As you can see there are a lot of teams comprising youth football here and most will train 3x/week with one match on the weekend. Most will play a 30 game schedule of home and away from the end of September to the end of May. Aug/Sept will be preseason with June as tournament time with some evaluations of new players.

So how does promotion/relegation work? It's quite simple, you finish first you move up, and depending on the tier, the bottom 3 or 4 get relegated. What is different with this? It's that the club holds the spot(s) in each age group and players funnel their way through the different age groups as some clubs may hold different tiers in each age group. I will use one of the clubs that my boys played for: Gimnastic Manresa There is a another page of a few more teams but you get the point

So the season is complete and based on all the standings this is where our teams finished and what tiers they will begin on Sept 30th. For example If I had a U12(Alevi) and a 14(infantil) son. They will both move up age groups to U14(infantil) and U16(Cadet). Lets say my U12 son played on Alevi "C" and my U14 son played on Infantil 'A". Based on what the club feels they will disburse these kids on once they move an age group but it also happens every year. Perhaps my U12 son who is now U13 and played on the C team is placed on Infantil "B" and the others that were on his team are placed throughout the age group where they have 5 U13/14 teams. My oldest is now U15 who played on the "A" team is placed on Cadet 'C" for instance. Again all his other teammates from U14 will be placed on the different U15/16 teams as there are 4. This is what I mean where clubs hold the spots in each age group and the players are filtered to the team that is best served to continue developing and play against players of similar qualities. Of course its not a perfect scenario as nothing is perfect but you get for the most part competitive matches. It also pays to be a strong CLUB throughout because if you have a strong group a players at U14 for instance, but your U16 teams are in the bottom groups, then many players will leave the club at U15 in search of a higher category to play in. As you can see Gimnastic Manresa A teams are all in the top division for each age group and hold high categories for the B and C teams.

This type of promotion/relegation holds the club accountable to make sure they are doing the right things to keep their teams in the top tiers. You will always have players moving up tiers to different clubs but this is accepted. Obviously the goal is to try and get to the top. What also differs here is there are not business standards or facility standards that a club must meet. There are coaching standards, at minimum a coach must take a 90 hour in class course plus many hours outside. If you want to coach in the Division of Honour you must hold a UEFA A. This is it in terms of standards. It's a very simple structure, it's not perfect but is doing a good job to develop players at all levels. It is player centric as player placement is based on what each player requires each year. You just don't move up with the A team because you have always been on A. Your team might be all first year age group players, maybe all second year or even a mix.

Business standards, facility standards, coaching standards alone is not enough. You need to incorporate footballing on field standards to complete the loop. If not you have a closed system with great off the field standards but the standards on the field will vary from club to club. I won't even go into the costs to get into the top tiers in North America as that is another issue!!

My name is Georgios Sarakinis and I have been involved in the game of futbol for many years as a player, coach, parent, Technical Director and more. This blog came along as I wanted to share my experience within the game of futbol.

My travels have sparked some debates and information sharing and thought it was a great avenue to share this information through this blog. If you have any questions or comments I can be reached at gsarakinis@me.com, on twitter @GSarakinis or the form below.


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