The Football Association has raised the age limit for mixed football to under-15s in a bid to help increase the number the number of girls playing football. Here, Rachel Pavlou, The FA’s National Development Manager for Women’s Football, explains the reasons behind the decision.
The FA expects and encourages the majority of girls to stay in girls’ football with talented players joining a FA Girls’ Player Development Centre or FA Centre of Excellence.
However, Mixed football does give an opportunity for a small number of girls who want to play in a team with the boys to do so.
The comprehensive research on mixed football shows us there are 3 main benefits:
1. Girls will benefit from opportunities for skill development, challenge, and enjoyment;
2. Boys and girls benefit socially from the friendships they develop and gaining respect for each other as team mates; and
3. Research on child development and physiology indicates that at U12-U14 ages there is considerable overlap between boys and girls in relation to size, motor skill development and ability. From the start of the 2013-14 season we will be conducting research to see if they is true at U15 level as well.
None of the evidence to date supports any concern that the Rule change would be to the detriment of the girls’ game. Globally, a number of countries have shown an ability to allow mixed football to a higher age and to have a strong girls’ game at the same time. It is envisaged that the change in Rule will only involve a small number of girls who wish to continue playing with their male friends, with the majority of girls continuing to choose to play girls’ only football.
All the pilots have showed that facilities were not perceived as an issue - both male and female players mostly came to all matches already dressed in their playing kit. However, it is acknowledged that this may not always be the case.
Of course, many facility providers who would need to address this issue at U12-U15 would already have to address the issue at U11 and would already have procedures in place. In situations where separate changing facilities are required, appropriate timetabling of changing room facilities would be one solution. Alternatively, changing rooms could be split between girls and boys instead of between the home and away team for the purposes of changing.
The open age rule was updated following extensive nationwide consultation, which took place in 2003, particularly around the safeguarding agenda, and was championed by many junior clubs. The consultation led to a proposal which was debated in 2004, and following further consultation, a rule change was approved at The FA AGM in May 2005 to phase in from the 2006-07 season.
It is important to note here that U18 leagues are allowed a three year age band if they wish. The rule which allowed 14 year olds to play open age football was an anomaly from the days when people left school at 14. The FA believes that 14 year old children playing with adults is not appropriate. We also did research with other countries and we were one of the lowest in the world, and we are still one of the lowest in the world game today.
Tell us what you think!
A recent Club Website poll found that the grassroots football community were split over the FA's increase to the mixed football age limit. Having read the FA's explanation of the changes, what do you think now? Have your say in our comments section below.