Professional Footballers Australia (the PFA) has today released an extensive research report that reviews Australia’s national youth competition through a combination of historical analysis and surveying of current players.

The Y-League Pathway & Workplace Conditions Report examines the past five seasons of Australia’s youth development league, uncovering the pathway and experiences of over 700 footballers who have appeared in the competition since its restructure in 2015. The report, the first of its kind, reveals:

  • Players in the Y-League play an average of 1.9 seasons 
  • 90% of players believe the Y-League season should be extended
  • 20% of players who have graduated from the Y-League over the past 5 years, 146 in total, have gone on to make an A-League appearance
  • 59% of players missed school commitments due to Y-League training commitments 

The report analyses the progression of every Y-League participant since the introduction of the Y-League conference system, exploring the competition structure, the professional career pathway for players, workplace standards and conditions and the players’ education and financial situations.

In compiling the report, the PFA engaged current Y-League players, conducting a survey with 110 respondents upon the conclusion of the 2019/20 season. 

PFA Chief Executive, John Didulica, said the outcomes of the research demonstrated the need to reform the competition to ensure better individual and collective outcomes for players and the game in Australia.

“In its current format the Y-League does not meet the needs of the players, A-League clubs or Australian football,” Didulica said.

“In the recently released PFA study, Culture Amplifies Talent, many players spoke to the transformative impact of the National Youth League on their career. Players were able 

to pin-point one match, one moment, one experience, that was central to their drive to climb the summit. This does not match the experience of players in today’s systems.”

“We have an opportunity now to re-design the Y-League to ensure it broadens its competition reach, commits to a better balance between football and education, and can become a genuine incubator of future talent.” 

Jonathan Vakirtzis, who represented Melbourne Victory for the 2017/18 Y-League campaign and now plays in the National Premier Leagues Victoria with Pascoe Vale, agreed an extended league would provide opportunities, but would require further investment from A-League clubs.

“An extended league would be a pretty good idea… there needs to be a big push for funding and a lot more emphasis on a link between the youth and senior setups,” Vakirtzis said.

“I definitely think if you make it as close to a senior team environment, you’re going to be getting kids who are probably developing quicker and are a lot more willing to be training full-time.”

For Melbourne City FC’s Y-League graduate Denis Genreau, who moved between the Y-League, A-League and a contract in Europe, believes clubs are committed to improving the Y-League due to the establishment of club youth academies, but more games are required.

“The youth league should continue because all the A-League teams have started to get their own junior academies, so I think they need to have as many games as possible,” Genreau said.

“In terms of the amount of games, eight games just weren’t enough; [it doesn’t] give the youth players the chance to show the first team coaches why they should be in the first team or not.”

The full report can be viewed and downloaded here.