The grassroots football community is split down the middle over the FA's plans to increase the age limit for mixed football in England to under-15s, a Club Website poll can reveal.
Of the 2,846 people polled by Club Website, 51 percent said that they were in favour of the change, which will see boys and girls as old as 15 able to play football in the same team from the start of next season, an increase in one year from last season's age limit.
49 percent of respondents were against the change, given the green light by FA shareholders in a unanimous vote last month in a bid to further increase the number of girls playing football in England.
Just three seasons ago, mixed football was only sanctioned up to the under-11s age group but, having increased the age-limit to under-13s for the 2011/12 season, the FA acted on positive feedback from that change and increased the age limit to under-14s for last season.
The FA says that the latest change will enable them to “conduct further research into mixed football at this older age group”, although the reaction within the grassroots football community has been mixed.
Joining in the debate on Club Website's Facebook page, Kevin Bell said: "Think there needs to be a limit to age due to kids growing up, there's some big boys & girls out there, and the hormone's can really start kicking in from 13/14!!!!!!!!!!"
Commenting as we posted the news here on Club Website last month, John Young said: "What a disaster for girls football in England. I only hope the Welsh FA do not go down this route !….This will only reduce the incentive for clubs to operate girls only teams. The number of girls who will get game time at older age level in mixed teams will be few and far between."
Many Club Website members welcomed the changes, however, including Chris Banks, who posted on Facebook: "Agree and why not go further. If girls are given the same opportunities from an early age and encouraged like boys are then there is no reason why their skill levels won't be the same or even better."
Lyndsey Taylor was also in favour, welcoming any of her fellow Facebook members worried about girls playing with boys to come and watch her team play.
"That's a great idea," she said. "As for all the comments about lads not tackling girls etc and girls being stronger, I invite you all to come and watch our team, we have one girl who definitely holds her own, and we're glad to have her, she is an asset to our team, and glad we will have her for a little longer. The team wouldn't be the same without her!"
Growing participation in women's and girls' football was one of the FA's key priorities in their Game Changer strategy, published last October, and they hope that giving girls the option to play with boys until the age of 15 will keep more of them involved in the game.
"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," said Rachel Pavlou, The FA’s National Development Manager for Women’s Football, in a piece written for Club Website.
"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."
Club Website poll: The FA has raised the age limit for mixed football in England to under-15s from the start of next season. Do you agree with the change?
* Yes - 50.9%
* No - 49.1%
Total votes cast: 2,846