Though it rarely receives much attention, Relative Age Effect can be detrimental to children as they move through the school system.

In essence, it describes how children born in the later half of the academic calendar can be put at a relative disadvantage next to their marginally older classmates.

By being even just a few months younger than their peers, they can lose ground both academically and physically and struggle to catch up.

Surrey Comet: Late Birthday ProjectLate Birthday Project

One Surrey-based project is now challenging this phenomenon with much success through the power of football.

Late Birthday Project was founded by sport and business expert Richard King, 49, back in 2016.

It uses the talents of football coaches to empower children in Surrey and Sussex with late birthdays and help them keep up with their peers, on the pitch at least.

"The relative age effect means that children born later in the academic year are disadvantaged from their size, their speed, their social and academic maturity," King told the Comet.

"And especially in football. All the big football clubs will pick and choose players when they're six, seven, eight years old, and at that age they're picking the biggest, strongest, loudest and those children get more coaching and opportunities," he pointed out.

Surrey Comet: Late Birthday ProjectLate Birthday Project

According to Late Birthday Project, 45 per cent of children in professional football academies were born September-November, while just 10 per cent were born June-August.

Indeed, under the existing academic/sporting calendars, some kids in the same age group are often almost a year apart in terms of age, say for those born on September 1 versus August 31.

"The others don't get the opportunities and can't catch up," King said.

"We're addressing it through football and we do that by only accepting players born January-August.

"We take them out of their peer groups where those stronger boys are progressing and we work with them.

"On the general side of their football but also in other areas — how to be more confident, how to communicate better, and being strong generally even if they are smaller," he added.

Surrey Comet: Late Birthday ProjectLate Birthday Project

From 30 children training at a single centre in Dorking back in 2016, King has witnessed the project take off in a relatively short space of time.

Late Birthday Project now have around 500 children training with them across 10 centres in Surrey and Sussex.

Dozens of the project's attendees have since gone on to trials with professional football clubs.

Yet the project is not just successful at the top end of the ability spectrum.

"There are different measures of success," King said.

"Some boys have worked with us who go to trials and get into academies.

"Others just want to get from their B team to their A team, or get into their school team, or just have fun.

"We get a lot of parents who say their kid is not enjoying their football, not being passed to by his teammates, and helping in those cases is often what gives us the most satisfaction.

"They suddenly get a joy for the game that they seemed to be losing before," he said.

Surrey Comet: Late Birthday ProjectLate Birthday Project

The project is funded largely by parents who pay for a membership for their children, though a partnership for kits with Adidas has helped keep costs down.

With such fast growth over its three and a half years of existence, the future looks bright for the Late Birthday Project.

King said he and his team are now working on plans to launch a franchise for the model and take it nationwide, starting in February.