The dispensation process for 2017 has been revised.

A summary of the dispensation process is below or a full version can be downloaded here.

You can also download a diagram explaining the process here.

There is a three stream process for which clubs are able to apply for dispensation. Before completing a dispensation form we recommend you read through the process and check the guidelines for whichever particular dispensation criteria you are applying for:

  1. Playing Up in Age
    1. Guidelines for Dispensation, see here
    2. Application form here
  2. Playing Down in Age
    1. Guidelines for Dispensation, see here
    2. Application form here
  3. Forming a team of mixed age grades (Junior local league teams only)
    1. Guidelines for mixed age grade teams, see here
    2. Application form here




The structures now in place allow for a good level of competition at most levels throughout this region, however there are circumstances in which a player needs to be challenged further at times within the season and therefore a dispensation request needed to play out of their chronological age banding (where relevant).

Dispensation Diagram 1

Within any session all players progress at different rates and fall into either the striving, coping or struggling categories depending upon what challenge, task or situation they are dealing with. Players who are seen to excel within their own age banding may not thrive in a higher age banding as a natural result, with several other important factors to consider when moving players ‘up’.

The players mind set is an area which can be overlooked, they were the better player and expected to be at their own age group and now in an older age group may feel they do not need to or expect to be, therefore not consciously challenging themselves as much as they would have in their own chronological age group.

The current workload for youth footballers training across multiple football entities, combined with several games and no overall management of the whole player also put players at real risk of overuse injuries.

Although no detailed study has been conducted in this area, this training system goes against the principles of the four corner (holistic) development of players. We are also reducing the benefit of players taking advantage of some excellent work being undertaken by all parties involved due to the lack of recovery / re-fuelling time, resulting in energy and glycogen depletion. This is critical for teenagers’ overall physiological development and will have a major impact on the ‘four corners’ of player development, detailed below.

The four corner model entails:

  • Technical / tactical (deterioration in performance due to fatigue / catabolic state / muscle breakdown and lack of glycogen to fuel performance);
  • Physical / Football Fitness (overuse as described below, burnout leading to drop out of the game entirely);
  • Psychological / Mental (poor self-perception of performance due to fatigue);
  • Social / Emotional (only time for football, where does everything else fit in to a young person’s development?)

Adolescents are also susceptible to illness due to the body always being in a catabolic (breakdown) state as they continue to grow and develop, young players to be within an anabolic (build up) state as much as possible to help prevent this.

Long-term development depends on an array of stakeholders, including football clubs, schools, colleges and private providers. The New Zealand Football Player Development National Framework document recognises that a degree of flexibility, particularly in geographically challenged regions, is necessary. However, to optimise player development, the National Framework asks that different groups and institutions become aligned with each other, so they are mutually supportive, clear in their roles, and aware of how they contribute to player development.


Overuse injuries develop over a period of time and involve bones or muscles / tendons of the body through too much repetitive activity. If too much volume (the amount of work / trainings / games) and not enough specifics (precise detail – intensity levels, type of work, trainings) is placed into the young player at this time, the injury will become worse with continued activity. This is a result of repetitive micro-trauma to the body part (evidence suggests usually to the knee, quadriceps, groins and hamstrings) that will continue unless medical advice is sought.

Risk factors for injury in children and adolescents include the presence of growth cartilage, existence of muscular imbalance, and pressure to compete despite pain and fatigue (Stein CJ, Mitchell LJ, Overuse injuries in Youth sports).

The principles according to which adults train and play, cannot be directly applied to youth players, but must be adapted to their development. This age banding is part of the ‘Long Term Player Development’ model (LTPD) set by New Zealand Football in the Player Development National Framework document, stage 4 – Youth Football (13-15 years): Specialisation (Learn to play the game) and stage 5 Youth Football (16-19 years)- Transitioning (Best performance training).

We must remind ourselves youths are not young adults (physically or psychologically). This fact can be ignored by parents or well-meaning coaches who can try and enhance these young players to swifter, higher and competitive levels at a vital time to their holistic development.

‘Growth spurts’ occur during this phase and the young player is vulnerable to injury during this period. With children and adolescents who participate in regular training and competition, the muscles develop more quickly than the skeleton which may be hazardous due to the unusual stress it puts on the skeleton. Muscle growth within adolescents can be up to six months more advanced in its development compared to the skeletal bone. This has a direct impact upon the high risk areas for young players (hamstrings, quadriceps (knee)), resulting in reduced strength production, diminished co-ordination of body movement, reduced balance ability and diminished endurance (the capacity of something to last or to withstand wear and tear).

One disease, which can directly impact performance and general well-being in young athletes’, is Osgood Schlatter. It is characterised by painful lumps just below the knee and is most often seen in young adolescents. Osgood Schlatter disease affects as many as 1 in 5 adolescent athletes and research has shown that it is directly linked to overuse.

Also within young players’ development, we must take into consideration the relative age effect, which arises from the inevitable differences in physical, emotional and intellectual development between the oldest and the youngest children in a group. Mismatches in biological maturity may create a potential competitive inequality and therefore have implications of injury (Malina et al., 2000).

Dispensation Diagram 2

A large body of research has reported relative age effect worldwide in many sports & academia (Musch & Grondin 2001). In youths, a year’s difference can lead to a significant variation in anthropometrical variables (height, weight…), development of physical condition (strength, speed…), cognitive skills (reflected in game analysis, perception, tactical ability or strategy) or psychological / emotional maturity (Blanksby, Bloomfield, Elliot, Aclkland & Morton, 1986; Fenzel 1992; Helsen, Hodges, Van Winckel & Starkes, 2000; Reilly, Bangsbo & Franks, 2000; Simmons & Paull, 2001; Philippaerts et al., 2006).

Therefore players playing out of their age banding need to be ready for the demands associated with bigger, faster and more skilful players if we are trying to further enhance what is best practice for the young player. This will help produce more and better players, increase players numbers and skill levels and retain as many participants for life in football through good experiences on their individual pathways.

This document is to highlight the current structure in place to a youth footballer’s development through training and playing and not a guideline of how many trainings / games which should be participated in each week. There will need to be some movement within the players training and games regime to enable best practice throughout the many opportunities available to enhance each adolescents opportunity to develop and stay within the game – from social football, 1st XI football, club football and any other providers within this space.

Management of player training(s), game(s) and other football specific is a key component of gaining dispensation, especially where a player works across more than one football entity. Good links and continued communication with other coaches will be required to help ensure best practice for the player is being maintained, especially when playing out of their age banding.

The overall development of the player is vital and to gain a dispensation the player needs to demonstrate an advanced skill set across the four corner development model (above) and be well managed and supported throughout the season with their training and games programmes.

Steeve Sharpe
Football Development Manager
Email: steeve@capitalfootball.org.nz