The English Football Association announces rules to eliminate head strikes among young players sports

The English Football Association announced on Friday that intentional head kicks in football matches for younger players will be phased out, as new laws are introduced to help reduce the risks associated with heading the ball.

The decision was taken after a successful experiment conducted by the International Football Association Board, which included about 16,000 teams and 107,000 players during the past two seasons, to cancel headers from football competitions for younger categories of players.

The laws will be applied in the U-7 and U-9 competitions starting from the 2024-2025 season, in the U-10 category starting from the 2025-2026 season, and the U-11 category in the 2026-2027 season, and will include all league and club competitions and any school matches.

The English Football Association said it had adopted the experience of the International Federation Council to help reduce any potential risk factors associated with heading the ball, including injuries, but the new rules also carry a technical purpose.

The FA explained, in a statement, “Our goal is also to create more technical opportunities for players with the ball at their feet, allow for more effective playing time, and reduce the time the ball remains in the air during matches.”

The laws stipulate that intentionally heading the ball will result in a penalty for an indirect free kick, which will be taken from the point where the ball was deliberately headed.

If a player intentionally hits the ball with his head inside his team’s penalty area, play stops and an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team from the nearest sideline in the penalty area.

No disciplinary penalties will be applied for intentionally heading the ball in matches, except in the case of continuing violations.

Safer play and research into the health risks associated with heading continues to be promoted after studies commissioned by the FA found evidence that frequent heading of balls during a professional football career is linked to an increased risk of cognitive impairment later in life.

Last year, the number of litigants from a group of former football and rugby players with neurological disabilities rose to 380, as they filed a class action lawsuit against the two football federations.

Last April, Manchester United defender Raphael Varane said that concussions had harmed him physically, and stressed the importance of enhancing awareness among players of the dangers of head blows.

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