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Heading in under 7-11s grassroots matches to be phased out

Football / Mon 27th May 2024 at 02:36pm

AFTER two seasons of an International Football Association Board [IFAB] trial in English football, The Football Association will now introduce a new rule to phase out deliberate heading in matches in all affiliated grassroots youth football between the Under 7s-11s levels over the next three seasons.

This includes all leagues, clubs and any affiliated schools football matches – starting with the Under 7-9s levels from the 2024/25 season, then increasing to include Under 10s level from 2025/26, and Under 11s level from 2026/27. The Essex County FA are committed to supporting stakeholders to implement these changes ahead of the new season.

In 2022, The FA became the first national association to successfully adopt the IFAB trial to remove deliberate heading in grassroots football matches at Under 12s level and below. The FA first introduced the IFAB trial in England following their steps to bring in heading guidance in youth football in 2020, and then the implementation of heading guidance in training across every level of the professional and amateur game in 2021.

The introduction of the new rule follows a consultation and discussion process with representatives across the grassroots game, including the National Game Board, the FA Development Committee and the wider County FA network. It has also been approved by the FA Board and the FA shareholders, who comprise a wide range of key stakeholders from across English football, with representation from the professional and grassroots game.

Why the New Rule is Being Introduced in Grassroots Youth Football Next Season

The FA first introduced the IFAB trial with the aim to help positively shape grassroots youth football, and to ensure that matches at this level are aligned to their current heading guidance for training. This was established in 2020 following consultation with the grassroots game, coaches and other experts across football, and it recommends that heading is removed or restricted at this level.

The FA also adopted the IFAB trial to help reduce any potential risk factors that may be linked to heading the ball, including injuries from head-to-head, elbow-to-head or head-to-ground contact. The FA continue to play a leading role in reviewing and improving the safety of the game.

This includes investing in and supporting multiple research projects in adult football to gain a greater insight and understanding of this complex area. During this time, The FA have worked with stakeholders across English football to review and proactively address potential risk factors which may be associated with football whilst research continues in this area, including ongoing dialogue with the international governing bodies.

The gradual introduction of the new rule over the next three seasons will support the players’ journey as they adapt from deliberately heading the ball in grassroots youth football matches. It has been decided that, as grassroots players move from primary to secondary school, heading the ball will be introduced at this natural transition point in their Under 12s season.

Throughout this period, The FA will research, review and analyse the way it is being implemented, to help identify ways of improving the experience for players and referees. The FA will also continue to review and evolve the current heading guidance for training to ensure it meets the requirements of the game. This includes providing coaches and players with innovative technical support and guidance so that they can prepare for the transition into heading the ball in youth matches.

Approach to the IFAB Heading Trial

Before the start of the 2022/23 season, The FA invited all County FAs, leagues, clubs and schools across the country to take part in the new IFAB trial to remove deliberate heading in grassroots football matches at Under 12s level and below.

Over the last two seasons, around 16,000 teams and 107,000 players have participated in the trial, and The FA have remained in consultation with all of their key stakeholders across the grassroots game to provide guidance and support to implement the trial successfully.

Throughout this two-year period, The FA have carried out robust and thorough research into the application of the trial, working closely with County FAs to understand how the game has adapted to the new format. This included observing and monitoring matches involved in the trial, conducting surveys with coaches, parents, guardians, referees and club officials, as well as gathering feedback from youth players.

Adapting the Heading Trial for the 2024/25 Season

The FA have researched and collected feedback from leagues and clubs taking part in the IFAB trial to remove deliberate heading in grassroots football matches at Under 12s level and below to see how the experience of the players taking part could be further improved. Their aim is to also create more technical opportunities for players with the ball at their feet, allow for more effective playing time and to reduce the amount of time the ball is in the air during a match.

As a result, from the start of the 2024/25 season for Under 7s-9s teams, The FA will also be rolling out the following:

Deliberate Header Restart

  • Deliberately heading the ball is an offence punishable by an indirect free kick
  • The indirect free kick is taken at the point where the ball was deliberately headed, except: where a player deliberately heads the ball within their own penalty area, the referee will stop the game and restart with an indirect free kick to the opposition from the nearest side line of the penalty area where the offence took place

Touchline Restart

  • When the whole of the ball passes over the whole of the touchline, on the ground or in the air, instead of a throw-in, a pass-in/dribble-in is awarded
  • The kicker that takes the pass-in/dribble-in may touch the ball again before it is touched by another player
  • At the moment of delivering the ball: the ball must be stationary on the touchline at the point where it left the pitch; only the kicker may be off the pitch; all opponents must stand at least five yards from the point on the touchline where the pass-in or dribble-in is to be taken from
  • A goal cannot be scored directly from a pass-in
  • The ball is in play when it is kicked and clearly moves

Sanctions in the Event of a Deliberate Header in a Match

  • From the start of the 2024/25 season, there will be no disciplinary sanctions applied for a deliberate header in a match, unless the action is considered a persistent deliberate offence, which could then result in a caution

Working With the Grassroots Game to Help Implement the New Rule

The County FA network, leagues, clubs, coaches, referees and schools across the country will play a key part in helping to implement the new rule. In conjunction with this announcement, The FA will be providing the relevant guidance and will work closely with all involved over the coming weeks to ensure that they have the support they need to successfully implement the new rule from the start of next season.

The FA will also support any league, club and school who is taking part in the current IFAB trial across the Under 10s-12s age groups if they wish to continue with the trial on a voluntary basis next season, ahead of the transitional phasing of the new rule from the start of the 2025/26 season.

The Essex County FA will communicate further details about the practicalities of these changes in due course, as they become available. You can find additional information about grassroots Essex football at www.essexfa.com, by following @EssexCountyFA on Twitter/X and by searching for ‘EssexFootball’ on Facebook.

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1 Comment for Heading in under 7-11s grassroots matches to be phased out:

Jason M
2024-05-27 17:05:39

This is ridiculous… I understand not promoting young kids to header a ball but to completely rule it out is ridiculous! My son scored a header last weekend and to think next season that will be a foul is nothing but shocking..

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