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Children aged 11 and under banned from heading football during training

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CHILDREN aged 11 and under will no longer be taught to head footballs as coaches in Jersey follow new England FA guidelines.

Picture: ROB CURRIE

The move has been met with support from coaches in the Island, with many believing it will protect children without having an impact on the game.

New rules have been brought in in England, Scotland and Ireland following Glasgow University research that found former footballers were 3½ times more likely to die from neurodegenerative disease.

Heading will be taught in a phased approach for children aged 12 to 16 and heading drills for under-18s will be reduced. However, headers will not be banned in games.

Under the new guidelines lower pressure will be used in footballs and children aged ten and under will use smaller balls in the Island, according to coaches.

Dave Kennedy, who is to become the new chief executive of the Jersey FA, said the move by the governing bodies was largely a good one. However, he does not want to see the art of heading a ball die.

Mr Kennedy, who won three consecutive Muratti titles as Island team boss said: ‘It is no surprise that these [guidelines] have come into place. There has been research and reviews into the impact of heading on the health of people later on in life.

‘While it is a positive, I would be mindful of some things. One thing that could be considered is using sponge balls to teach heading, as there is a technique to it that is learned through repetition.

‘If you headed an old football back in the day it left an imprint in your head for about an hour. The equipment is different now. This is now in place because of the duty of care to children, which is a positive move, but I wouldn’t want heading to become a dying art.’

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While some former professionals in England have criticised the move, the changes have been welcomed by campaigner Dawn Astle, who has led the push for research into the impacts of heading for many years.

Her father, Jeff, who represented West Bromwich Albion and England, died in 2002 from chronic traumatic encephalopathy brought on by repeatedly heading footballs.

The new regulations will be introduced in recreational and school football in Jersey.

The lead community coach for the JFA, Daniel Seviour, said: ‘There had already been some coverage on this issue, which we’ve been discussing locally, and I think Jersey has been proactive, which means there aren’t likely to be major changes.

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‘The focus with the children we coach is very much on ball skills, playing the ball on the ground and trying to beat defenders – and that’s not likely to change.’

Other coaches in the Island have also said the move will have little impact on youngsters playing the game.

Will Partington, of the Brazilian Soccer School, added: ‘I think any move that takes children away from being introduced to adults’ football at a young age is a smart move, and for me this is a landmark and groundbreaking move in the game.’

JFA football development officer Brian Oliver added: ‘Part of this is a response to changes in the game. In youth football there isn’t a lot of heading anyway. The way children are taught to play these days involves a more technical game that doesn’t include a lot of heading.

‘I think all the moves are good ones. If anything it will encourage football to played on the floor and youngsters to play in this type of way.

‘We will be following these recommendations and I think it is a sensible approach that has been taken by the FA.’

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