Mixed football age limit raised to under-18s in England

Boys and girls in England will be able to play football in the same teams up to under-18s level next season, after the Football Association raised the age limit this week.

The increase in the age limit for mixed football from under-16s to under-18s is the fifth change in as many seasons and is designed to give more girls the opportunity to play the game and a choice over who they play for.

The resolution was approved by FA shareholders at the FA’s AGM this week, after the FA board, FA executive and FA council all agreed to the proposal.

The new regulations will come into effect for the beginning of next season (2015-16) and will enable the FA to conduct further research into mixed football at this older age group.

“The important message to get across about mixed football is that we’re not raising the age group to make girls play with boys. We’re doing it to give girls the choice to play with boys if they want to,” Rachel Pavlou, the FA’s national development manager for women’s football told Club Website.

“We’re saying that if a girl wants the opportunity to play with her friends who are boys, or they live in a rural area and there isn’t the opportunity to play on a girls’ team, or they feel they’ll get a better game for themselves, playing on a boys’ team, we want those girls to have the choice.”

The decision underlines a dramatic change in the FA’s stance on the issue over recent years. Just four seasons ago, girls of secondary school age were prevented from playing football with boys. The age limit was raised from under-11s to under-13s for the 2011/12 season, with one-year increases implemented for each of the following seasons.

“If you look around Europe at some of the big countries there – like Holland, Germany and Italy – they’ve been playing mixed football to an older age group than us for many years,” added Pavlou.

“It hasn’t detrimented the girls’ game or meant that all the girls’ teams have folded. It’s meant the odd few girls that want to can go and play with the boys, so they’ve still got a flourishing girls’ programme, but there’s a choice.

“That’s all we’ve ever wanted – to make sure that, for those girls that want it, there is a choice.”

Former England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis has also welcomed the change.

“Mixed teams offer girls a choice in the environment that they want to play,” the former Everton keeper told TheFA.com.

“They are of particular value for talented players in areas where girls’ football is still emerging or played to at a less competitive level. So if they are going to be better tested in mixed football, then why not?”

Mixed football for under-18s – have your say!

What do you think of the FA’s decision to raise the age limit for mixed football to under-18s?

Whether you’re for or against the change, we want to hear from you and we want to hear why! Tell us what you think in the comments field below and cast your vote in our online poll now, either on your club or league website or via our demo site.

This article appeared in The Clubhouse – the monthly newsletter from Club Website. To get the best grassroots news, offers and competitions straight to your inbox every month, sign up today!

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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. John McCormack on May 22, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    All this is aimed at the better girls being able to play within the boys structure but no mention is ever made of the girls teams who bring in far superior boys which is wrecking Girls football.

  2. Karl on May 22, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    Personally i think it’s a bad idea. By that age, boys can have grown to a stage where they are much stronger than girls of the same age, which is dangerous with regards to injury. I am 22 now, but i remember being asked to play against a ladies team at the age of 15, because that what age was deemed safe for males to play against females.

  3. Barry Butterworth on May 22, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    Agree totally with John. There is a loop hole here that needs to be closed off. Too many girls’ teams are moving girls out of their teams for boys to play in. It should be that if you have 11 girls or more then you play those girls. If you don’t have 11 girls then that’s another matter. There are too many girls dropping out of football because of the lack of opportunity.

  4. Elaine Harrower on May 22, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    My 11 year-old daughter has only been playing football for two seasons. She started playing mixed football this season and, as far as I can see, she has only benefitted from this opportunity. The mixed game has given her more match experience which she then brings in to her girls team matches- of which she is the team captain. My daughter has been completely accepted by the lads on her mixed team. She is a valued and integrated team member. She has proved herself match after match. She starts every match and is rarely subbed off. Her coaches are are fab and encourage and push her. Her game has become faster, harder and increasingly more technical. She then takes that experience into her girls team. Her teammates learn from her and are encouraged to up their game- girls tend to be naturally competitive ! A few brave souls have now tried mixed training. My daughter loves playing for both teams and should be able to do so based on her merit – not her age. This experience is a reflection of real life and is setting my daughter up for life in a modern world.

    • Kevin Warden on August 13, 2017 at 11:08 am

      Elaine I agree totally. My daughter played on a boys team from the age of 4. She also played for 5 different girls teams from u9s-u11s. The standard was awful and she made no progress. The fouls she sustained were shocking and the matches were one sided as all the better girls flocked to play for the same team.She even played 1 and 2 years up to try to find a competitive standard. An RTC coach recently saw her with the boys and asked if she wanted to join. We said no as it would involve 400 mile round trips to play 1/2 a game! She is playing locally with a boys B team. The furthest away game is 15 miles most are 5 miles or less. The petrol we save by not plying girls grassroots pays for 2 hours a week of coaching with FA level 3 coaches and really decent boys. She will be u13s next season. If your daughter is any good stick with boys for as long as she can then find a ladies team.

  5. Ray Dixon on May 23, 2015 at 2:03 am

    Oh Dear! How does “Women” playing in Boys teams help develop male Football? All they do is take a place that should be allocated to a “Boy”
    Don’t see many “Men” playing in Womens teams.
    Keep em’ separate.

    • Kevin Warden on August 13, 2017 at 5:39 pm

      Ray I would not worry if I were you. My daughter has only ever come across 1 other girl in 8 seasons of boys football and none for years now. Her tackling,passing,positioning and vision are all good and better than many boys on her team. She loves playing and the boys like her. She always sets a good example at training and in games.The very few girls that remain by their teens are there on merit. The rest are playing girls football.

  6. Stuart embleton on May 23, 2015 at 6:33 am

    This is not good for the girls game most of the teams in Surrey league struggle to find enough female players and letting the stronger ones play in mixed teams isn’t helping the development of girls football
    The fa do little to help the girls game as it is this doesn’t help

  7. David Lawson on May 23, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    I do believe that talented girls will develop more quickly playing with boys. However, I’m not sure on the consistency of the FA on health and safety. Is there (on average) a larger physcial gap between a 16 year old girl playing v a 16 year old boy (which is now permitted) or a 14 year old girl playing v a 16 year old girl (which is not)?

  8. Sarah on May 23, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    My daughter has played in a mixed side for 12 months and is loving it! She is a valued member of the team and starts every game. She has trained with a girls side but prefers to play with the boys and the news that she can now continue to do this until she is 18 is great!!

  9. Natalie Gadsby on May 23, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    my daughter is 10 and plays in a mixed team. I understand some of the previous points made and respect these. However, my daughter plays in defence and my goodness, she more than gives the boys a run for their money!
    Plus, more importantly, she is playing a sport she loves with the friends she enjoys being with. I’m pleased that she has been given the opportunity to do this for as long as possible.

  10. David Hardy on May 23, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    Why have any age limit? If they’re good enough let them play

  11. Nigel McAdam on May 24, 2015 at 9:20 am

    I’ve been involved with girls football since 1997, and whilst I’m delighted to see how the game as developed over the years, this is a step too far. The reason I say that is because it will make the already difficult job of recruitment that much harder, meaning some teams either won’t get off the ground or will fold. How many U14s, 15s and 16’s divisions in the country already are struggling with just 4-5 or 5 teams in it? I don’t see this helping at all, and what about the less able girls that suddenly can’t find a local girls team to play in? They are unlikely to have the confidence or desire to join a boys team.

    In addition, this could be detrimental to the boys, especially those that love the sport but are not brilliant at it. Getting beat on the pitch by girls every week might be a bit hard to take, so that’s another kid perhaps sat at home on his Playstation rather than taking part in an active sport.

  12. Niamh on May 24, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    This season just past (2014-15) I was the only girl in the country playing Under 16s football, which was, until this change, the maximum age limit. I have played with boys since U13s, and each year I have played they have changed the upper age limit, enabling me to play with boys ever since U13s. I can honestly say it is the reason I am where I am with football today. I am the youngest player playing women’s open age football in the women’s premier league north and I have represented the Republic of Ireland internationally. If your daughter or a young girl you know plays football, you should advise her to join a boys (or “mixed”) team, as it is certainly the best decision I ever made. The fact that the limit has only just been raised to U18s is almost laughable, but I hope to see many more girls play mixed football all through their junior years, as it is an excellent and enjoyable way to develop their game. I could not be more ecstatic that the FA have finally come to this decision. The boys I play with and against have all told me what a beneficial experience it has been, and to answer several of the other “worries” expressed in these comments; It does not negatively effect the girls game as 1) girls don’t drop out of the saturday girls league, they can play both saturday and sunday, and 2) the overall standard of the boys game is better (as there are so many more boys playing) so it only develops female players, improving the general standard of the game! Secondly, if a girl is good enough, why shouldn’t she be allowed a place in a boys team? there are more than enough spaces for boys to fill teams in the leagues (I have played against several boys teams who struggle to produce 11 players!) so if anything, girls are going to help increase the standard of boys football as well!! Thirdly, I have taken part in the research into mixed football this season, and it has been entirely about the “risk of injury”. They have concluded from nearly 10 years of research, that there is not any extra risk for a girl than there is for a boy. I can say, from first hand experience, that I have received less injuries than most of my male counterparts, and I have received more injuries in the girls game, so that argument is invalid. Finally, I have neither seen nor heard of any boy playing football with the girls. If there is actually a boy out there playing in the boys league, all I can say is, that is some of the best news I’ve heard all week. There are far too few girls playing in the grass roots league. I played in what is supposedly the biggest girls league in country, and there were teams who didn’t even have 11 girls signed for them. By introducing boys into the girls league there is nothing but benefits to be had, as there are more players. My team won both the Cup and the League, and what we struggled for more than anything was the lack of high quality opposition. By having boys participate in the league, it will bring on not only the players at the top of the table, but the girls lower down as well. This rule change has nothing but benefits for everyone involved, I think I may go out to celebrate.

  13. Duncan on May 26, 2015 at 10:49 am

    I support the principle of allowing girls the choice to play Mixed football through out the youth tiers, however I would suggest there also needs to be a thought to ensuring girls are coached and trained so there is not an associated increase in injury rates.

  14. Jodie on May 26, 2015 at 11:25 am

    My daughter is 9 and has been playing football from the age of 4, she started in mini kicks with some of her other team mates and they formed their first team at under 7’s and are now soon to be under 10’s. She gets a lot of support off her coach and team mates and is treated just the same as the rest of the all boy team. In my opinion playing with the boys has made her stronger and work harder and I think the experience can only benefit her for the day she does have to play in an all girls team. Even at a young age it did bother her that one day she would have to leave because not only are these boys her team mates but some of her best friends as well.

  15. louise masterson on May 27, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    My daughter plays for both a mixed team and a girls team. Her experience in the boys team has made her a better and stronger player and this she has brought to her game within the girls team. I see this as a positive and it is good that she has that choice as she still has to trial for each team and if did not make the grade would not be selected. While she keeps making the grade she is earning her place the same as the boys and given no special treatment, in fact at times puts in more effort than her male team mates who by the way show her every respect!

  16. Karl on June 10, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Ok, this is going to upset a few people in the world of everyone being PC…
    will boys be allowed to play for girls teams in ‘girls’ lgs now?? as FA now gives equal rights to all…
    how long before someone uses the ‘im a female and they wont let me join’ card if they are simply not good enough?
    the other major problem are changing rooms, local clubs struggle for changing rooms now, having to provide another one for the females means costs will go up.
    now if the FA put their hands in their pockets to support this instead of wasting £1000’s on PR then it would help grassroots football.

  17. Jackie Andrade on June 10, 2015 at 10:50 pm

    My daughter has played in defence for 3 or 4 years for a team where she is the only girl. She is 12 now and still physically stronger and faster than most of her teammates. No-one has complained it was unfair on boys to have a girl running and tackling more strongly than they could. All-female teams get far too little match play so opportunities for mixed play are essential. While the FA is modernising, why not have girls’ teams play in mixed leagues so they get more match practice? My colleague’s daughter plays in a girls’ team in the Netherlands that regularly beats the boys’ teams in her league.

  18. John Harrison on June 12, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    Well can you believe it the FA have decided to raise the age that boys can play in a girls league to 18, the mind boggles have you noticed that boys of this age are generally quite a lot bigger than girls of the same age . Several teams in our league last year u15’s had boys playing for them and a very average side without boys came 3rd in the league with a boy playing in goal who dominated the bax and was able to play as a sweeper because of his fitness and strength .He also caused an injury to one girl with his aggressive play .

  19. Gill on August 19, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    I heard Niamh (previous commenter) on Radio 5 Live this afternoon. I hope that those who are against this move were listening too. Niamh articulately described why the arguments against girls playing with boys are invalid, as well as explaining how playing with boys 6’3″+ forces her to improve her positional play. I wonder if anyone told Messi or Maradona they were too small to play football with the ‘men’?

  20. Jacqui Gross on August 25, 2015 at 9:53 am

    My 17yr old daughter has played girl’s high school football and club football in the USA for the last four years with no injuries at all. Four weeks ago she accepted an invitation to have a “kick around” at the high school while the coach was on holiday. Perfectly acceptable, but when she arrived there were boys there of the same age and younger. They decided to play “co-ed” and mixed the teams up. I wasn’t there to witness it so I don’t know for sure what happened but she came home with a season ending ACL tear. Now, I think they technically were not supposed to be playing with boys but what do you do when they both want to share the same field? My daughter said she was playing defence and a forward got by her and she wasn’t about to let it happen again. Girls and boys get more competative and aggressive when playing each other which in my opinion could lead to more injuries.

  21. jane farmer on October 4, 2015 at 7:31 am

    Yesterday- 3.10.15- was the first time my 15 yr old daughters Under 16 Girls League team had encountered a male player at all. The young man played in goal and it was a super game, although we lost 4-3! Whilst I am all for equality, bring it on, I think I might have been quite worried had my daughter have been playing against a team made up of possibly up to 11 boys aged 16! Are we actually saying then that a team of boys could competitively play a team of girls? That is how it seems this could be read by some of the- lets say more competitive- teams in girls football in order to win leagues and competitions. I quite understand that in rural areas GIRLS may find it difficult to join a team, is this the same? Surely then, if boys and girls up to 18 are to be allowed to play on the same pitch it MUST be allowed for the adults too, giving LADIES FOOTBALLERS the SAME OPPORTUNITIES as their now often very very rich male footballer counterparts.
    Just an opinion.

  22. Matilda on January 16, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    My daughter plays in the cwfl. In one match they had a boy in goal and he made all the difference – he had a far stronger kick, was quick off the line and was more physical – actually injuring my daughter (unintentionally). We have noticed a team who were not winning, starting to win – the difference – they have started to play boys in the team. It appears some teams will use this new rule, not to give boys a chance, but solely to start winning. I do not believe this is what the rules were intended for. So these boys have taken the place of girls, who want to play, but are forced out because the coach wants to win.

  23. sandra on April 19, 2016 at 11:32 am

    can a 17 year old girl refuse to play football to be accessed for a levels when she is the only girl that will be playing against 17/18 year old boys this is causing a great deal of stress the college will not provide any other alternatives she has worked really hard with the rest of the work can you advise

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