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PC footie chiefs dropped the ball by ruling kids' results offside

By Paul Connolly

Published 11/12/2015

Competition: kids’ football
Competition: kids’ football

The following story is one of those yarns that immediately incites head-scratching and predictable rumblings of political correctness gone mad.

It has emerged that football chiefs in England have written to the local Press in Surrey - and reportedly issued a nationwide directive no less - "directing" them to refrain from publishing match results of children's games.

This is apparently in case the losers get upset. It applies to newspaper articles, club and league websites and social media channels and refers to teams in the under-seven to under-11 age bracket.

Youth FA officials say publishing scorelines is "detrimental to the development of the player and the game" and that "our aspiration is to ensure that a progressive, child-friendly approach pervades and we challenge the win-at-all-costs mentality that has been recognised to stifle development and enjoyment for young people".

Unsurprisingly, this has ignited a whole ballyhoo, partly about media freedoms but more properly about children, competition and achievement.

My first reaction was to disbelieve it. Sometimes the media over-froths at silly things, getting its proverbials in a twist about next to nothing.

But, lo, it appears so far that, despite the imminent onset of the Christmas silly season, this one has legs all right (if you'll forgive the pun).

It is part of a growing movement that wants to protect all younger children from the impact of winners and losers, apparently regardless of what this does to the competitive spirit.

Publishing local match reports and scores has been staple newspaper fare for generations. Northern Ireland's weeklies do it to this day, and the Belfast Telegraph had until a number of years ago a fantastic supplement called Local Heroes, which celebrated local sport, including youth leagues.

In the old days parents and kids liked nothing better than to see themselves and their team's trials and tribulations.

The gee whizz factor of seeing your photo in the local paper has been diluted these days due to the ubiquitousness of online images and video, but it's still of interest, particularly if it's surrounded by intelligent analysis or news stories.

Reaction to the FA "directive" that I saw, including on the holdthefrontpage website, was overwhelmingly negative, despairing and also very funny, with one commentator imploring: "As a Newcastle United fan, I sincerely hope the FA extends this ban to the professional game as a matter of urgency."

A common theme was that attitudes like this explain why "British sport is losing its competitive edge". Another added: "Pathetic, I'm tempted to set up my own Twitter and web feeds purely to broadcast these results. This country is doomed."

A former local paper sub-editor wrote: "I used to collate the youth football results and every week the same team would be getting thumped 10-0, 12-0, 14-0 etc, but their manager would always send in a report and praise the players who had tried hard.

"After a while I decided to do a feature on them and mini-profiles on the team and they were happy to go along with it. Guess what? The following season they won their first game… and within two seasons they were winning their league and it was all the better for knowing how they had struggled at the start."

Let's hope the Irish League doesn't start getting ideas just as the Northern Ireland team recovers its competitive edge.

Belfast Telegraph

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