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Ban on kids heading the ball 'will be good for the game in Northern Ireland'

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Approved: Patrick Nelson

Approved: Patrick Nelson

Approved: Patrick Nelson

The Irish Football Association has said an effective ban on heading the ball during training for under-11s will be "good for the game".

New advice issued from the IFA recommends there should be no heading in training for primary school children, with "a graduated approach" to children in the development phase between under 12 and under 16.

There will be no changes to how games are played, however, as research shows that headers are already less common in youth games.

The new guidance was agreed in partnership with the Football Association and the Scottish FA.

IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson said: "Our football committee has reviewed and approved the new guidelines. As an association, we believe this is the right direction of travel and are confident it will be good for the game and those who play it."

The move comes after the University of Glasgow published research that showed ex-footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die from degenerative brain disease.

Although there was no evidence to directly link heading the ball to the condition, the FA said the new guidance would "mitigate against any potential risks". The new guidance also covers the required ball sizes for each age group.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said: "This updated Heading Guidance is an evolution of our current guidelines and will help coaches and teachers to reduce and remove repetitive and unnecessary heading from youth football.

"Our research has shown that heading is rare in youth football matches so this guidance is a responsible development to our grassroots coaching without impacting the enjoyment that children of all ages take from playing the game."

Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell said the phased introduction of heading in youth training would be at an age group considered most appropriate by medical experts.

Belfast Telegraph