NextGen collapse a fatal blow for youth football in England

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Today's announcement that the widely acclaimed NextGen Series - a continental tournament for 24 elite academies from 12 different countries - has been suspended for the 2013/14 campaign due to "a lack of definite funding" is a massive blow for youth football in this country.

At a time where there has never been more emphasis placed on the need for a complete overhaul of England's age-old coaching and development programme for promising young footballers, the postponement of this competition is a huge step backwards for everyone.

Since its inception in 2011, NextGen has featured the U20 teams of some of the biggest clubs in Europe, including Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, Celtic and Paris Saint Germain, as well as a number of the Premier League's most prestigious sides - like Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City.

Aston Villa actually ran out winners of last season's instalment, which also featured Arsenal and Chelsea in the final four of the 2012/13 tournament staged in Como, Italy.

The competition has been instrumental in the growth and maturation of a number of young players, like emerging Chelsea star Nathan Ake, Ajax's Viktor Fischer, and holders Aston Villa with Gary Gardner to name but a few.

Co-founders of the NextGen Series Mark Warburton and Justin Andrews commented: "The level of support we have received from the football industry, media and fans has been magnificent and for that we are truly grateful.

"It is hugely disappointing that an event of this nature, designed to assist with the development of Europe's elite players, should have to take such action but we hope to be back next season with an even better tournament."

The one-year sabbatical came about because tournament organisers have been unable to tie down sponsorship, as UEFA attempt to launch a similar competition for youth sides, branded as the 'Youth League', which will follow a similar format to that of the Champions League.

Some clubs expressed concerns that they would not be able to compete in both tournaments, due to the demand on their youth squads, while others didn't want to be reliant on senior teams qualifying for the Champions League proper, in order to participate in continental competition at youth level, as would be the case with the Youth League.

It's a great shame that such short-sightedness and narrow-minded decisions continue to be made to the detriment of football at youth level, which is going to continually have a negative impact on the stinted 'progression' of academy development in England.

Clubs in Spain, Holland, Italy and Germany seem to have the right idea, and are not completely dependant on these continental youth tournaments to keep nurturing their burgeoning young talent.

While their respective national teams continue to bear the fruits of their approach to youth coaching, English clubs and the dwindling national team is at risk of falling further and further behind.

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