The FAW and FAW Trust are making some key changes to elite girls’ football in Wales, in order to attract more female footballers from across the country into the development pathway.
Changes to girls' regional programme
From next season, North and South Wales U14 and U16 girls' regional squads will compete against elite boys, as the FAW Trust Girls' Academy, in the Cymru Licensed Academy Games Programme.
The FAW Trust Girls’ Academy Squads will benefit from increased training sessions and tailor made programmes based on the needs of the individual. The programme will develop their knowledge of the Welsh Way of playing, as set-out in the FAW National Syllabus, preparing them for international football.
Why have we made this change?
Football associations across Europe report that exposure to mixed gender playing opportunities has improved their most talented girls and our domestic game review highlighted that more than 85% of girls found playing against boys to be a positive experience, which supported their development.
As part of The FAW and FAW Trust's strategy to develop clear and effective pathways for progression, the new girls' academy increases the contact time with our elite girls and provides a competitive games programme for them to develop.
As a small nation we have to be innovative with our approach to provide competitive environments to prepare our players for international football and utilising the Cymru Licensed Academy games programme is a great opportunity for our most talented girls to compete regularly against elite boys.
How do girls get selected for the FAW Trust Girls' Academy?
Clubs have been notified about these changes and three stages of talent identification showcases are due to be held from early April. Nomination forms for these have been shared with grassroots clubs.
The first stage for grassroots players, second for current performance centre players and final stage for those successful in stage one and two, along with existing girls' regional programme players.
This talent ID process will open to players born between 2006 and 2010, who are eligible to play for wales.
The first showcase will be for grassroots players,
What other changes have been made?
With an increase of 50% in girls participation over the last four years, the player pool at a grassroots level is growing. The purpose of the girls' development centres (formerly performance centres) is to provide a development programme for the talented players within the grassroots game from U9 to U16.
The development centres play a key role in the player pathway and will act as a development tool as well as an important talent ID and recruitment tool into our girls regional programme which feeds into the U15 National Squad.
There will be 8-10 centres geographically spread across Wales to ensure the most talented girls from the grassroots game have access to a weekly development session with qualified coaches.
Female Football Player Pathway
FAW Trust Technical Director Dr David Adams said: “This is a significant development for the girls' game in Wales.
"The opportunity extends our provision of a robust weekly technical programme and enables us to challenge these girls through a weekly games programme against our Cymru Licensed Academy teams in north and south Wales.
"The challenge and developmental opportunity will provide a significant platform to enable these girls to progress through more consistent and relevant competition”.
FAW Head of Women and Girls' Football Lowri Roberts said: “Our aim is simple: to provide more best v best opportunities in training and in games for our most talented girls.
"We have an opportunity with the Cymru Licensed Academy games programme to really challenge our future international players.
"As a small nation we have to be innovative in our approach and our FAW Trust Girls Academy will provide a challenging and competitive games programme.
"By working closely with the Cymru Licensed Academy heads of coaching, we can ensure our female players can access elite environments, regardless of where they live."
From age 16, the re-structured women’s domestic pyramid will then provide a stronger development platform for these players when they graduate from the FAW Trust Academy.