Over 450 players from 26 clubs rounded off their first year in the Academy system by attending the Premier League's Under-9 Welcome Festival at Loughborough University.
The festival included newly inducted players from both Premier League and Category One Academies across the nation, as attendees enjoyed an unforgettable experience while making new friends.
For many of the young players, it was their first experience of staying away from their parents overnight, while also playing high-quality tournament football against their age groups as they continue to develop on their journey to the Premier League.
The event provided a fantastic blend of academy football on multiple pitches and a true festival environment, including a children’s activity zone.
To help cultivate the fun and varied experiences for the boys, there were football inflatables, face painting and a Premier League Primary Stars and Science workshop.
The opening ceremony was led by primary school teacher & TikTok star Kit Brown, who prepared some famous celebrations from Premier League stars, with the children shouting out to match the celebration to the player.
This helped create a brilliant atmosphere before the matches had even started.
“The Under-9 Welcome Festival provided the perfect conclusion to a first season of academy football for [these] young players," said Premier League Head of Academy Football Operations Edd Vahid.
"Players, parents, club staff and match officials enjoyed a memorable event. Glorious sunshine and a relaxed atmosphere provided the ideal backdrop to this celebration of academy football.
"The level of play and spirit displayed on the pitch was exceptional.”
U10s and U11s national finals
The U10 and U11 National finals took place on 30-31 May and 1-2 June.
Also held at Loughborough University, the tournament offered academies the opportunity to play teams outside of their usual Premier League Games Programme.
For the U10s, this produced a fierce, competitive environment, with the boys experiencing group-stage and knockout football.
The finals epitomised what the foundation phase of the Games Programme is all about, seeking to enhance the holistic development of young players by ensuring they get as much high-level game time as possible, while having fun.
Tottenham Hotspur took the U11 honours, beating Southampton 2-1 in the final.
David Rainford, the Premier League’s Head of Education and Academy Player Care, said the National finals produced a fitting end to a successful season.
"Teams competed across two days of high-quality competition that displayed the skills, confidence and enthusiasm integral to the foundation phase experience," he said.
"Alongside the tournament action, parents were provided with additional engagement activities delivered by the Premier League to provide further insight on the academy journey ahead.
"Families, club staff and match officials clearly enjoyed the wonderful football spectacle throughout the event.”
Words by Sam Akpan