Children under eight banned from competitive football - because it's too stressful
By Vanessa Allen
Last updated at 8:55 AM on 27th June 2008
Children under the age of eight have been banned from playing in football leagues and cups amid fears they are under too much pressure from competitive parents.
Youngsters can still play matches but results must be kept private and no league tables can be compiled, according to the ruling from the Football Association.
And they should not compete in knockout tournaments where trophies or medals are at stake as FA officials fear the pressure could be too great.
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The Football Association has banned young children from playing competitive matches because the 'pressure' to win is too much (file picture)
The move - due to be enforced when the new season starts in September - is aimed at protecting children from pushy parents and aggressive coaches on the touchline, and from peer pressure and bullying.
But junior league organisers argue it is essential that youngsters learn about winning and losing.
Kevin Warrington, whose undereights team finished bottom of their league in Hampshire last season, said: 'If you look at our results we only won one game and we lost one of our first games 21-0.
'But the boys were playing together as a team, they were making new friends and enjoying the environment in which they were doing that. They didn't care if they lost.'
Graham Spencer, secretary of Colden Common youth football club near Winchester, Hampshire, added: 'I am not sure how you can actually play football non-competitively.'
But an FA spokesman insisted under-eights were too young for leagues and trophies.
He added: 'We are trying to create an environment where children can develop their skills and enjoy the game without the pressure of having to get a result week in, week out.
'Children told us they were giving up football because they were getting hollered at if they made a mistake.
'If they enjoy the game they have plenty of time to get competitive.'
The spokesman added that the ruling had been made after consultation with junior leagues. It followed pilots where parents and managers were kept at a distance from the pitch to try to reduce the pressure on young players.
Earlier this year the Hickstead showjumping event cancelled its junior classes until further notice because of 'pushy' parents.