Heading ban for under-12s to be trialled by FA

The trial will come in for the 2022-23 season in England

A ban on heading by players in matches at under-12 level is to be trialled by the Football Association.

It follows research suggesting former footballers are more likely to die from brain disease than other people.

The FA has been granted approval from the International Football Association Board to introduce the trial in England from the start of the 2022-23 season.

It will be co-ordinated with the county FA network, leagues, clubs and schools throughout the country.

“Should the trial be a success, the aim is to then remove deliberate heading from all football matches at U12 level and below from the 2023-24 season,” an FA statement said.

Former West Bromwich Albion striker Jeff Astle and members of the 1966 England World Cup squad, including Jack Charlton and Nobby Stiles, have died after suffering from brain functioning diseases believed to be linked closely to heading footballs.

Sir Bobby Charlton, who won the World Cup and played for Manchester United, has been diagnosed with dementia.

Research into football and head trauma has shown professional footballers are three and a half times more likely to die from dementia than people of the same age range in the general population.

Children aged 11 and under are no longer taught to head footballs during training in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, while FA guidelines for coaches also put limits on how much heading older children should do.

Last year new guidelines recommended professional footballers in England should be limited to 10 “higher force headers” a week in training.

“The FA will continue to explore further ideas, in consultation with stakeholders in the game, to reduce heading in youth football without fundamentally changing the fabric of the game,” Monday’s statement from English football’s governing body added.

Astle’s daughter Dawn, the project lead for neurodegenerative diseases in football at the Professional Footballers’ Association, welcomed the trial.

“We want all our children to enjoy their football, but they must be able to play safely,” she said.

“The proposed new trial to extend the heading guidelines already in place for training to matches is a logical and sensible step.

“Football has a duty of care to continue to mitigate against the risks of heading a ball. This obligation includes youth football but also applies to care of players in the elite professional game.

“Going into the 2022-23 season, all professional clubs must incorporate the appropriate heading guidelines into their training regimes. Their responsibility extends to their youth, women’s and men’s teams.”

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