The term ‘relative age effect’ (RAE) is used to describe a bias, particularly evident in elite youth sport and academia, where participation is higher among those born early in the relevant selection period (and correspondingly lower amongst those born late in the selection period) than would be expected from the normal distribution of birthdays.
Relative age effect has been demonstrated in numerous sports around the world, but particularly in elite youth football.
In 2009 57% of Premier League academy players had birthdays in September - December, 29% were born in January - April, while those born in May - August accounted for only 14%.
And Elite Player Performance Plan research from 2013 proved little had changed, where at academies of Premier League and Category One clubs, of those aged between Under-9 and Under-21, 45% of players were born in Q1, while only 10% had birthdays in Q4 (Elite Player Performance Plan research, 2013)
So with a bias towards the older children in a group, how many potential stars of the future are being lost to the system at an early stage? The best players can’t all be born between September and December!
And FA research has found evidence of RAE throughout the grassroots game - i.e. teams finishing at the top of their league have a higher proportion of 'older' children than those finishing lower down.
In fact, the FA considered the Relative Age Effect to be so serious that, after comprehensive research led by youth football expert Nick Levett, it was recommended that all youth club football be moved to a January to December selection year. But this recommendation was never implemented.
The Late Birthday Project combats the Relative Age Effect by providing a professional academy environment, opportunities and coaching for young footballers born between March and August only*.
This will allow these players to flourish without the influence of older, bigger, faster boys who might usually dominate their year groups.
Individual player development is our main focus, with a philosophy and curriculum inspired by the famed AFC Ajax academy.
Players at the Late Birthday Project will also benefit from UEFA qualified coaches, premium 3G pitches, facilities & equipment, a free additional programme of futsal coaching & matches, and free Adidas team kit, as well as a safe, positive, respectful environment for them to express themselves and improve.
And with showcase fixtures and tournaments, scouts attending & close links to a number of professional clubs, there will be a natural pathway for those players ready to make the step up – or return - to academy football.