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Mixed Sports for Children – in particular Football

Comment 10th July 2010

 

I write to you knowing that the country has a passion for football and what we think is a real injustice to a number of young female players.

I am the (proud) sponsor of an U13 team for the Guildford City Football Club – I love the game, I love the team and am ALWAYs amazed at the commitment of the kids, the parents and the managers and coaches at this level of football, and the benefits of football and other sports in dealing with issues such as diversity, sexual equality and inclusion at childrens critical development stages.

 

The FA has told us (between seasons) that we can no longer have mixed teams Under 13. For us, and for one 11 year old girl this is devastating – for 4 players in a team close to us (Worplesdon), it is devastating – for over 50 girls across the south of England – this is devastating – as well as to their parents, their teams and potentially their interest in football.

 

We believe in the FA Policy on Safeguarding Children, and in encouraging children of both sexes and all backgrounds to take part in sport.

 

We work hard to support this policy, as individuals, as members of the FA and coaches of our team. We work hard to build the team spirit and approach required to be a successful football team, but more than this, the experiences the whole team take away are life enhancing and socially beneficial.

 

Within a team like ours, where we deal with cultural and sexual diversity, this has created a team of well balanced individuals, who support each other, work hard for each other and together are greater than the sum of their parts.

 

Regardless of our children’s race, background or sex, we ensure that the full policy is adhered to. “Building relationships with parents and carers and including all families in club activities” is something we pride ourselves upon – and to take an 11 year old out of an established structure and team seems cruel on the part of the FA, and we cannot understand the reasoning behind it. It seems to go against the principles of equality in children and inclusion and diversity in activities.

 

We agree and concede, absolutely that in the current environment, mixed football teams are not achievable beyond a certain level. We believe that 13 is a good age for the segregation to begin – and having previously sought and been granted permission for our female player to continue with our team for another two seasons, until she is 13, (at her and her parents request, and the full support of the club, the other parents and kids), we are now faced with the possibility of brutally disappointing not only the individual concerned, but her parents and the entire team – it may even be enough to break her relationship with football at a time when she is really discovering her role on the field and demonstrating skills which outmatch her opponents on an alarmingly regular basis.

 

We are not the only team in this position – we are aware of a number of teams at a number of clubs now faced with a similar problem.

 

Surely a phased approach would be more sensible – for those already in the system, to remove them from established teams could be potentially damaging to the individuals, teams and sport. Closing the door for new players in mixed teams, but allowing those already in place to see out their time whilst reviewing their options.

 

Our kids, as do most of those we play against, take their football, their team-mates and their training seriously, but are also prone to being easily upset and disappointed – after all they are vulnerable – but surely we need to consider all aspects of this policy revision which prevents these children from continuing, and certainly we believe there should have been an increase level of consultation with the staff and coaches who put the effort in to train, organise and manage these teams before sweeping changes were brought into effect.

 

We have started an online petition (over 229 signatures today and growing), and a written petition (with over 1800 signatures so far) – we would love to get this issue into the open and under discussion. We are planning to deliver our petition to the FA at a suitable date in the near future, and would welcome any support you might feel you could give this cause!!  We love football – you love football – help us help kids who also love football.

 

Our petition is located at : http://www.petitiononline.com/fauk001/

 

I can be contacted on 07590351202

 

 

With Best Regards

 

Mark Holland

Guildford City Football Club "Wizards" Sponsor

 

 

 

 

Why does this matter?

It impacts children directly – their interest in sport, their opportunity to play, and restricts the level which can be achieved by female players who are unable to find a club of suitable quality to reach their potential.

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