A change to the age limit at which boys and girls can play football in the same teams has been unanimously voted in by the Football Association (FA).
The move follows a report by Brunel University researchers in Sport Sciences, commissioned by the FA, to assess the risk of injury in competitive mixed gender football for under 14 players. The researchers found that girls who play on mixed teams were not at greater risk of injury than the boys.
Dr Laura Hills, Senior Lecturer in Youth Sport and lead researcher of the report, entitled “Injury Risk in U14 Mixed Gender Football,” said: “The girls that we observed during the research demonstrated the necessary skill and understanding of strategy to compete with boys at this level.”
The change will come into effect for the forthcoming 2013–14 season and will enable the FA to conduct further research into mixed football in this older age group.
The resolution to increase the mixed football age limit from U14s to U15s was approved by the FA shareholders at their annual general meeting after the FA Board, FA Executive and FA Council agreed the proposal.
Dr Hills added: “We expected that the FA would introduce a trial extension of the age limit but they decided to opt for a change in policy, which is great.”
Kelly Simmons, Director of the National Game and Women’s Football at the FA, said: “This is really great news and we are delighted that the FA Shareholders fully supported the rule change to enable boys and girls to play in the same teams if they wish to do so up to the U15 age limit.
“The most important thing is to give girls who want to play football the choice.”
The report was co-authored by Dr Hills, Amanda Croston, Sara Horne, and Professor Bill Baltzopoulos.