A SUMMER soccer tournament exclusively for under-21 teams is set to be a sizzling success, according to organisers, writes Simon Parkinson.
The nine-week event, to be held on the new 3G pitch at Oaklands Park, is being staged to mark the return of the Bristol Under-21 Combination League at the start of September.
Tournament hosts Gloucestershire FA have teamed up with the new league’s officials to put on the football fest, which will see a series of nine v nine games, lasting 50 minutes each, performed every Tuesday evening at the recently-revamped centre in Almondsbury, starting on Tuesday, June 3.
Many of the teams entering the under-21 league campaign are expected to take part, including sides associated with Longwell Green Sports, Nicholas Wanderers, Bradley Stoke, Mendip and Ashton and Backwell United, who have all expressed an interest in signing up along with others.
The GFA and 19-year-old Bristol U18 Combination League, which is overseeing the inclusion of a new under-21 section, spoke recently of the need to offer maturing teenage footballers a smoother pathway into full-blown adult football through the advent of under-21s competition.
The Combination League is optimistic at least ten teams will join up for the 2014-15 season and is issuing invitations to even more clubs to take part before the start.
League secretary Ken Howitt said: “We’re extending our offers to any teams in the region within a sensible travelling distance, not just those within the GFA county confines. Clubs themselves have identified a need for such a league and we’re looking to run it on Sundays with 2pm kick-offs, as we do with our under-18s.
“That said we’re prepared to be flexible and if clubs agree with one another to kick off earlier, or maybe in midweek, we’ll certainly cater for such changes.
"We’re also looking to bring repeat (rolling) substitutions into the games, in order to give as many players a chance of being involved as possible.”
GFA football development officer Joe Goulding added: “We’re delighted with the response so far. This new league presents a great opportunity for clubs to retain their young players and members. It is essentially for players who have finished as under-18s but there’s sure to be the occasional 16 and 17-year-old involved.
“Our summer tournament is designed to support the launch of the under-21 league and we’re keen to hear from any team, irrespective of whether they have already signed up for it, wishing to take part.”
Clubs eager to register for the tournament should call Joe Goulding at the GFA on 01454 615888, or email Joe.Goulding@GloucestershireFA.com.
For information about joining the under-21 league, contact Ken Howitt on 01454 314822 (email email@example.com).