FA bans deliberate heading in youth football

The Football Association has announced a plan to phase out deliberate heading in matches involving players under the age of 12 over the next three seasons. The move follows the successful completion of a two-year trial instigated by the International Football Association Board (IFAB).

Implementation of the rule will be a gradual process starting with U7 to U9 levels from next season, followed by U10 level from 2025 and U11s from 2026. It will apply to all affiliated grassroots youth football and will be supplemented by support for young players as they adapt to heading the ball during their U12 season.

Under the new rule, a deliberate header will be punishable by an indirect free-kick. If the ball is deliberately headed out of play, the opposing team will be awarded with a ‘pass-in’ or ‘dribble-in’, instead of a throw-in. The FA was the first national association to adopt the IFAB heading trial in 2022, and it was subsequently adopted by over 16,000 teams and 107,000 players.

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. The FA said in a statement: “We first introduced the IFAB trial with the aim to help positively shape grassroots youth football – and to ensure that matches at this level are aligned to our current heading guidance for training.

“This was established in 2020 following consultation with the grassroots game, coaches and other experts across football, and recommends that heading is removed or restricted at this level. The gradual introduction of the new rule over the next three seasons will support the players’ journey as they adapt from deliberately heading the ball in grassroots youth football matches.”