Rule change says clubs must use U-20 players for 10% of game time next year

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Men’s National League clubs will need to make sure U-20 players use at least 10% of the available playing minutes under a rule change to be implemented next year.

The National League includes the Northern, Central and Southern League competitions.

The regulation replaces the previous requirement for teams to start every game with at least two U-20 players in the line-up.

The change comes following recommendations from the National League Technical Working Group, a group made up of representatives from across football in Aotearoa.

In a statement on its website, NZ Football says the change allows for teams to have greater flexibility whilst still championing youth development.

The rule caused some controversy last season when Manukau United substituted two U-20 players in the first 30 seconds of a Northern League game.

The club were fined $500 and the coach was banned for one game by NZ Football but the punishments were later rescinded.

READ MORE: Double substitution raises questions in Northern League game >>>>

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NZF says the changed rule means that, on average, two U-20 players will play in each game of the National League.

Andy Boyens. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

New Zealand Football Technical Director Andy Boyens says the change is a positive move for the league.

“The National League system has been successful in providing opportunities for young talent to play at the highest level of domestic football in New Zealand.

“This change allows for clubs to have greater flexibility on how they integrate their young talent into their teams and simplifies the process for participants.

“There was strong sentiment from the working group that New Zealand Football should place a high level of trust in the National League clubs to bring to life the principles of the competition and to support the development of young New Zealand players.

“The new rule places that trust in the clubs to compete in the spirit of the competition whilst having more autonomy to use their squads as they see fit.”

An U-20 player transfer window will be established at the end of the National League regional phase.

This will provide an opportunity for National League Championship sides to register up to two additional U-20 players from sides that did not qualify for the Championship ahead of the start of the national phase of the competition.

The National League was launched in 2021 following New Zealand Football’s Delivery and Sustainability Project which examined many of the challenges facing football in Aotearoa.

An U-20 player is defined as a player who is under 20 on January 1 of the year of competition.

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