Relative age effect occur?

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The purpose of the study was to investigate the performance level at which birth date effects selection for performance pathways in English football, as well as examining whether coaches are currently implementing arrangements to limit the relative age effect. The study comprised of 2450 players from performance levels including community, grass root and academy. The birth dates of each player within every performance level were analysed through the use of statistical tools within Microsoft Excel, with interviews analysed through transcription and the highlighting of recurrent themes. The sub-groups were viewed by age group, month of birth and the total percentage of players born within each quartile of the selection year to analyse the birth bias within specific performance levels. The statistical data of each sub-group were then collated to view differences in progressing through each performance level. The main results found an over-representation of players born in the first quartile throughout each performance level. The bias within the community and grass root subgroup was 4.1%, with a 39.9% bias towards the eldest players at academy standard. The evidence highlighted that birth date only has significant impact on selection once the academy standard of play is reached, with minimal difference in impact when progressing through inferior performance levels. Coaches in the study showed high awareness of the effect, with implementation of two strategies to reduce the relative age effect being implemented. The two strategies were found to be ineffective in the reduction of the relative age effect, through implementation occurring after selection. To conclude the academy pathway highlighted the most significant bias, with birth date having minimal impact at inferior performance levels. Strategies to reduce the relative age effect are currently ineffective requiring further research into reducing the bias prior to selection.



  • To investigate the performance level at which birth date may affect selection for performance pathways in English football.
  • To examine if football coaches are making arrangements to limit the Relative age effect in football

Research Question:

In English football is there a starting point to the relative age effect and if this is the case then how are football coaches currently taking this bias into consideration when working with children at all levels of football. Â


Relative age effect is the difference in ages between children in the same age group. An example being, a child born in the start of the selection period in football i.e. 1st September will be 11 months older than a player who falls in the same age group born on the 1st of August. (Barnsley et al, 1992) Throughout the study research has referred to the relative age effect as birth date and birth bias, all meaning the same. The football world is competitive and making sure that your team are developing young athletes to progress into the first team and national team is very important. This has made the selection and development of children an important aspect in youth football.

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