FA to phase out heading from grassroots football over next three seasons

The Football Association (FA) has announced a plan to phase out heading in matches for players under the age of 12 over the next three seasons.

The decision follows the successful completion of a two-year trial initiated by football’s lawmakers, the International Football Association Board (IFAB).

Starting from the 2024-25 season, the new rule will be implemented at the Under-7 to Under-9 levels. It will then extend to the Under-10 level in the 2025-26 season and finally to the Under-11’s in the 2026-27 season. The rule will apply to all affiliated grassroots youth football, including leagues, clubs, and school matches.

The FA said in a statement that the gradual introduction of this rule is intended to “support the players’ journey as they adapt from deliberately heading the ball in grassroots youth football matches”.

Under the new rule, a deliberate header will result in an indirect free-kick. If the ball is deliberately headed out of play, the opposing team will be awarded a ‘pass-in’ or ‘dribble-in’ instead of a throw-in.

Key points of the new rule include:

  • Deliberate header restart: Deliberately heading the ball will be penalised by an indirect free-kick at the point of the header. If within their own penalty area, the restart will be from the nearest sideline of the penalty area.
  • Touchline restart: When the ball crosses the touchline, a pass-in or dribble-in is awarded instead of a throw-in. Opponents must stand at least five yards away from the restart point.
  • Sanctions: No disciplinary sanctions will be applied for a deliberate header unless it is considered a persistent offence, which could result in a caution.

The FA was the first national association to adopt the IFAB heading trial in 2022. Since then, over 16,000 teams and 107,000 players have participated.

The introduction of the rule follows a series of consultations with representatives across the grassroots game, and has been approved by the FA Board and FA shareholders.



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