FA outlines benefits of mixed football

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.

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Dan Pope
Writer at Teamer
Freelance writer, editor and copywriter, with a passion for grassroots sport. A right back turned football writer, Dan is the former editor of Club Website and has been lucky enough to work in the field of grassroots and community sport for the last 10 years.

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  1. D. GRAYSON on June 25, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    I am very pleased that the FA have extended the age for girls to play in mixed teams. Positive encouragement, opportunites and choise instead of restrictions is vital to their development.

  2. Steve Brough on June 26, 2013 at 8:58 am

    Allowing girls to continue playing mixed football to U15, promotes the retention of the better players in boys football. Thus taking away vital numbers required for the girl only teams.
    Girls from 14 onward tend to drift away from football because of other interests. From this age its critical to have the numbers, otherwise teams will fold. In a lot of cases teams continue because they have those 2 or 3 better players, without then it will be goodbye to those average teams who make up the majority of league places. Then at U16 girls need to play in girl only teams which will have already folded.
    In our league girls teams have had to request that 9v9 continue or lose teams due to lack of numbers.

  3. lee milton on July 21, 2013 at 9:42 am

    I think a great idea but most girls prefer to be in girls team maybe something should be done about playing up as boys teams do we wanted to go u 16 this yr but couldnt due to 1 girl in our sqaud but we stuck by her as an amazing playet … but a struggling to get the numbers and no other team
    In essex has taken on boys

  4. simon evans on August 1, 2013 at 9:35 am

    i have run an all girls team playing in an all boys league
    the girls relished the chance to play against the boys yes they were beaten
    but over the whole season the girls got stronger they never gave up and played some amazing football
    we are now moving back in to the girls game
    its sad to say that the leagues are very small 5 or 6 teamS
    they have to travel twice as far for matches
    some leagues are talking about mixing counties to try and build up team numbers
    which would means even traveling cost
    the idea that my girls can play in the boys league longer is great news
    i have learnt this season that if teams take the girls /girls teams at alot younger age they forget about the boy girl thing and its more about the football

  5. Km Burley on March 8, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    My daughter is 11 and has played for a girls team, she now plays for an under 13s boys team, the boys totally accept her and she feels very comfortable around them, and all regard one and other as friends and respect the fact she has just as much talent as them, personally I feel she has grown so much in confidence especially as the opponent team normally look and say, look they have a girl on the team, that is of course until she plays, the boys on her team would never undermine another girl playing on a different team , so that is a lesson in its self, the fact that she has had to be really strong and basically man up against opposing players, as under no circumstances do they give her any leeway so when she plays for her school girls team she has no fear keeps her head down and is strong,, so being in a mixed team is the best thing that could have happened to her

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