Reading FC should be commended not penalized…

The English Football Association enforced a bizarre rule earlier this week and kicked Reading out of the FA Youth Cup for fielding an under-age player.

Read that again – AN UNDER-AGE PLAYER.

The Royals were not trying to gain an unfair advantage by using a player too old, although that is permitted in Under-23 matches and in fact 32-year-old Charlie Adam has featured for ‘Stoke’s U23s’ in the Checkatrade Trophy earlier this season.

So, over-age players are allowed in England, under certain rules, while under-age players are also allowed week in week out in U18 Premier League action. But for reasons we will explain later, the FA enforced a rule which has penalized an Under-15 side from facing Arsenal in the quarter-finals of the competition and taken away what was probably the biggest game of most of the the lads’ lives.

Fifteen-year-old left-back Imari Samuels is the unfortunate lad, whom Reading fielded by mistake. The Championship club blame an “administrative error” and contacted the FA immediately to inform them in the hope of replaying the tie. A outcome which seems logical.

All players competing in the tournament must have turned 15 before midnight on August 31 of the current season, and Samuels, although 15 now, was only 14 at that cut-off point.

That led to the FA Youth Cup ‘Sub-Committee’ holding a hearing at Wembley, at which they upheld the decision to remove the club from the competition. Reading are pondering an appeal, but why does such a rule exist?

According to the club’s statement, they believe the rule was “initially introduced to ensure the competition would be played on a level playing field in earlier rounds which pitted league clubs against non-league clubs”.

Reading themselves point out that their infringement of the rules was made in a fifth-round tie and not in an early round, and they were also up against another league club in Colchester.

With that in mind the rule has not protected the intended parties, but simply punished the progress of a talented youngster and his team. A 15-year-old, who Reading deemed talented enough to play with lads three years older than him. Why should he be punished and his team-mates for a rule that is not fit for purpose?

Reading are a Category One Academy and their mantra is to “extend and consolidate” youngsters – pushing them beyond their comfort zone and then maintaining what they have learned. The club were doing exactly that when they threw Samuels into the fold.

Reading point out that the “Academy proudly continues to offer the invaluable experience of competitive football to talented players who we feel can benefit from game time ahead of their respective age groups”.

And in fact they included four Under-15s in their Under-18s squad, all legitimately, for a league match earlier this month and they are not the only club to do so, it’s common practice.

Let’s just forget the rules here for one minute. We are talking about a 15-year-old, who was playing against boys three years older. There was no unfair advantage gained, what Reading did was try and develop a talented youngster in a competitive environment with boys older than him. They should be commended not penalized.

Let’s hope Reading see enough optimism to appeal and the FA see the light and apply some common sense.

Matthew Briggs


Making friends at the United Soccer Coaches Convention, Philly 2018

Arriving in a city in the week of an NFL play-off game, the excitement was palpable, the welcome warm.

The natives of Philadelphia were excited. From the exuberant Uber driver, who delivered us safely from the airport to Downtown, to the buoyant concierge, who informed us day-by-day that this was the year the Eagles would fly.

And they did. After a crushing win over Minnesota on the Sunday of our departure, they made history two weeks later with a historic Super Bowl victory over the fancied New England Patriots.

The city has since celebrated in style and street poles were climbed, despite the City really applying grease to them. Their success though brought wry smiles to the GoPlay Sports team, and even those at our HQ in deepest Boston.

It was four years ago that GoPlay made their first venture to the then NSCAA, and now United Soccer Coaches Convention. Philadelphia was the perfect host city then and what an eye-opening experience it was too.

A confirmation that North America’s soccer sphere was a marketplace full of opportunity.

The GoPlay team numbered just three in Philly 2015; Philly 2018 the team hit double figures.

This year’s event felt bigger and in fact over 10,000 attended, setting a new record, while some of the speakers included Thierry Henry, Bruce Arena, John Harkes and Stuart Holden.

But from our very first trip to Philly four years ago it was evident that the United Soccer Coaches event presents an unrivaled opportunity to connect. And with three years’ experience of the event under our belts we have developed countless relationships. And we were determined to reach out again this time around; starting at our legendary Wednesday night social, which was the best attended and most successful to date.

The 2nd Story Brewing Company hosted us once again and did not disappoint with a delightful range of real ales, IPA’s and selection of tacos.

ACIS and GoPlay President Peter Jones provided an expert welcome and run down on the progress over the last 12 months, on a night which went until the early hours, as we caught up with old friends and welcomed new ones.

We invited our travel partners from Italy and Spain to come and experience the whole event and they were not disappointed. Taken aback by the sheer scale and size of the event they were astounded by the opportunities that were present and the connections we already have in place.

Our man from Rome – buoyed by bubble-wrap inspired inner soles purchased in the exhibition hall – took everything in his, now comfortable, stride and loved the fine food at Estia, a nearby Greek restaurant.

Our Madrid-based associates took in some field-based coaching sessions and were mightily impressed with Celtic’s International Soccer Academy Manager Willie McNab and his hour of Scanning: Awareness to play away from pressure.

The Celtic clinician is a well-respected coach in North America and GoPlay were delighted to develop our relationship with Willie and Celtic last year by partnering with the Scottish champions. We are now Celtic’s North American travel partner and our rapport with Willie and the club has gone from strength to strength.

READ MORE: GoPlay Sports and Celtic link-up

GoPlay are also delighted to be working with New Balance – another new partnership, which we hope will be prosperous for both ourselves and the innovative sports brand. And what a party those Boston boys put on. Spin in Downtown Philly proved to be a magnificent venue as New Balance’s Friday night bash set the bar high.


Bath tubs of ping pong balls, branded with New Balance and GoPlay, table-tennis experts to refine your technique, a DJ, spray-paint artists, along with unlimited refreshments and not to mention the give-aways, made for a fantastic evening.

New Balance it was a blast!

We also met up with our like-minded friends at Iconz Experience, developed a new coaching relationship with Manchester United Academy coach Tom Statham and added Johnny Burns at Florida Celtic to our network, whilst we once again hosted the New England Intercollegiate Soccer League coaches annual social.

That was another fantastically-attended event and which we hope will continue to flourish.

The week really was another overwhelming success and we’re already planning our point of attack for Chicago 2019.

Matthew Briggs



2017 LA NSCAA Convention

2016 Baltimore NSCAA Convention

2015 Philadelphia NSCAA Convention