The Sussex County Women and Girls League has stunned players and officials by banning publication of youth team results on Full Time, its official internet outlet.
The change in policy, which affects all girls’ teams below the Women’s Division, took managers and secretaries by surprise when they attempted unsuccessfully to upload their own teams’ results to the widely used website.
Others made the discovery when they went to check how other teams had fared, only to find the spaces where the scorelines should have appeared filled with Xs.
This is what competitive football is all about – to see how well a team did and who scored – Stuart Berry, secretary, Mile Oak Wanderers
League tables showed teams’ positions and number of points accumulated but not the goal difference.
It has also dropped goalscorers from Full-Time.
The league, which has scrapped goal difference in its adult league this campaign as part of a trial, with FA backing, says the move is intended to enable young players to enjoy playing without risking being driven out of the game by “bullies” seizing on poor results to ridicule individuals.
But it has infuriated many clubs, who are especially upset that they were neither forewarned nor consulted about the move.
No wonder girls stop playing football. when they don’t get scores published I’m sure at 16 a girl can handle seeing if they lost drew or won
— Mark Graves (@MarkGraves1270) September 10, 2017
whose idea was that i can’t believe they will not show scores or scorers it really is getting pathetic
— Mark Hills (@Markhills22) September 10, 2017
Stuart Berry, secretary of Mile Oak Wanderers, told Sent Her Forward he discovered the radical departure from convention when he looked for results on Full-Time and then tried filing his own clubs’ scores.
“Our coaches have used some choice words as to what they think of the decision. Suffice to say they feel the decision is ludicrous and not thought through,” he said. “It seems very cloak-and-dagger and underhand.
“I’m not happy, either, as this is what competitive football is all about – to see how well a team did and who scored. Sure, three points are great, but players look at Full-Time and want to see how they are doing.”
All we need to know is who won and who are runners-up – Paul Preston, competition secretary, Sussex County Women and Girls Football League
Paul Preston, the league’s competition secretary, said the league was not trying to prevent the information being made public but had chosen not to publish it on the official FA outlet for affiliated leagues’ results.
“What we are not doing is preventing clubs from publishing their own results… via their own outlets or from you personally publishing match reports [on Sent Her Forward] or results on SCWGFL matches.”
Preston said the league’s decision was made following last season’s FA Youth Leagues Conference on creating “the best possible environment for players… to enjoy the game and develop”.
“We already know that goal difference does not matter in determining champions in youth leagues, and research by the FA said that players in general forgot fairly quickly about the result of a game, irrespective of whether they won or lost, so we asked ourselves the question, why publish league results on the website? For whose benefit is it? Does it encourage negative behaviours?
“From a league perspective, all we need to know is who won and who are runners-up at the end of the season.”
Paul Preston cited evidence from an FA review of youth football: “Feedback we got was simple – children are competitive by nature, they want to win and don’t need a league table or results section on a website to confirm this.
“Our ambition is for football to be progressive and child-friendly and to move away from the win-at-all-costs mentality that has been recognised to stifle development and enjoyment in sport.”
Preston said the SCWGFL had also chosen to stop recording details of goalscorers “to prevent teams/players from chasing goals and having excessive one-sided matches as players try to be the top goalscorer in the league”.
“Another major benefit of not publishing results is that we are aware of incidents in the past where players have been ridiculed at school or by players in other teams about results.”
He suggested a high drop-out rate at under-15 and under-16 level might be attributable to the publication of results, and he added: “If this [decision] stops just one team and 12-15 players from leaving the game then it can only be a positive move.”
He pointed out that the Kent Girls and Ladies Football League already operated a similar scheme, and that the proposal had been included with the league policy statement sent to all member clubs ahead of the SCWGFL annual general meeting.
“We will of course listen to any feedback given to us by clubs, and it is a topic listed on our agenda for the league management committee next week.”
There’s likely to be plenty of that, judging by the reaction from club officials on Twitter on Sunday and subsequently in response to an invitation from Sent Her Forward to give their views.
In fairness, only a handful of the nine clubs approached have responded openly, but none of those has backed the county league stance.
Mile Oak’s Berry said: “Some matches have high scorelines, but it will make no difference to the team that lost by a big margin because it’s already happened, so I really can’t see any benefits.
“The disadvantages are that players will lose interest. They want to see how well they are doing; they want to know how many goals were scored. I dare say they want other people to see how good they are.”
And Berry feels that the league’s efforts to keep more young players in the game could backfire. “To water down women’s football at a time when it is getting more popular… is a massive backward step, and although there are points [earned], it feels like non-competitive football.”
Sussex girls are a small group and like to know how each other get on on a Sunday morning – Mark Graves, manager, Crawley Wasps Under-16s
Andy Haggis, manager of Worthing Town Under-16s, told Sent Her Forward: “It makes no sense… If you’re not going to show the scores/results, why bother with a table?
“As a manager, I like to check the other teams’ stats to see which players to look out for (goalscorers), and they’re not even updating that on Full-Time, either.
“If we don’t fill [match report forms] out in time we get fined, but they’re not even showing half the stuff we have to put on there.”
‘Makes gender gap bigger’
Worthing Town FC secretary Paul Woodley added: “Every Sunday evening I will always scroll through the Full-Time website for boys’ and girls’ teams at our club, looking up results, as it’s interesting to see how our teams got on.”
Mark Graves, manager of Worthing’s under-16 rivals Crawley Wasps, said: “We understand the goal-difference arguments, but can’t see why they won’t publish scores or scorers. Sussex girls are a small group and like to know how each other get on on a Sunday morning.
“Who scored against who? Did their friend score? Let’s face it, our scores last year (when Wasps regularly lost by big scores in a boys’ league) raised a few eyebrows, but not once did they shy away from getting them published.
“You can look up scores from under-12 boys’ games. Why can’t we be given the same options? It just makes the gap between the girls’ and boys’ game bigger.”
Players quickly forget results of games they’ve participated in.
All we need to know is who won and who are runners-up at the end of the season.
Children are competitive by nature. They want to win and don’t need a league table or results section on a website to confirm this.
We are aware of incidents where players have been ridiculed at school or by players in other teams about results.
All the above – and more – have been used by the Sussex County Women and Girls Football League to justify its decision to prevent teams posting their scores and scorers on the FA’s Full-Time website.
Maybe its officials have done research that bears this out. Certainly, the FA appears to have. And that – and a meeting of youth league representatives last season – appears to be behind its controversial action.
The SCWGFL never stands still and is always looking at ways of improving the environment for females playing football in the county.
It is also not shy of trying out concepts that might attract criticism or controversy if it feels they are for the benefit of the game – and particularly if they help retain wavering young players who might otherwise leave the game altogether.
The league is already experimenting with the abolition of goal difference in its adult division this season, on the basis that weaker times sometimes pull out of the most daunting fixtures, and in the hope that there will no longer be an incentive for stronger teams to inflate their goal tallies.
But not to publish results – merely to say which teams won or drew – seems an extraordinary over-reaction to, and possibly misjudgement of, the sensibilities of some of the young players who compete (if that word is still allowed) in their leagues.
And while I would hate to see players driven out of the game, dragging whole teams with them on occasion, by the embarrassment of their heavy defeat being on public show, players giving up is a fact of life which, I would suggest, is usually down to a complex combination of factors – and by no means solely – or even, in my view, significantly – attributable to the formal publication of results that, as Paul Preston admits, will still be widely available through other media.
One football man called it a concession to political correctness, and I can’t help agreeing.
Mine of information
As for Sent Her Forward, Preston rightly points out I will still be at liberty to publish the scores of youth matches on this website and via my Twitter account.
In all honesty, I do not normally publish details of these games unless I have attended them – which I still intend to do when circumstances permit.
But Full-Time is a mine of easy-to-access information about all the teams I cover, and if details of results and scorers are not readily available, my preparation and ability to write informed reports is going to be compromised.
I occasionally highlight outstanding results or performances (and not just big scorelines) on Twitter. But in all honesty, after finishing my match report not much before midnight on a Sunday, I’m hardly likely to go hunting for the information on individual club websites or Twitter accounts.
It probably won’t make much difference to most players involved, but it will undoubtedly deprive some of the clubs whose fortunes are normally overlooked of occasional positive publicity which might – who knows? – actually encourage girls to join – or stay at – clubs rather than leave them.
Paul Preston says league officials will consider feedback and will discuss the issue at its management committee meeting next week.
Now that it is in place – albeit without much apparent consultation with clubs – perhaps everybody should give it time and see whether players, coaches and secretaries really do miss seeing their – and others’ – results on the official FA website.
But let’s hope that the open-minded, progressive image the SCWGFC is looking to portray lends itself to being prepared to do a U-turn if the evidence suggests the experiment has backfired.