Heading To Be Phased Out In Grassroots Youth Football Matches

In 2022, The Football Association (The FA) became the first national association to successfully adopt the International Football Association Board [IFAB] trial to remove deliberate heading in grassroots football matches at U12 level and below.



After two seasons of the IFAB trial in English football, The FA will now introduce a new rule to phase out deliberate heading in matches in all affiliated grassroots youth football between U7-U11 level over the next three seasons.


This includes all leagues, clubs and any affiliated school football matches – starting with U7-U9 level from the 2024-25 season, then increasing to include U10 level from 2025-26, and U11 level from 2026-27.


The introduction of the new rule follows a consultation and discussion process with representatives across the grassroots game, including the National Game Board, the FA Development Committee and the wider County FA network.


It has also been approved by the FA Board and the FA shareholders, who comprise a wide range of key stakeholders from across English football, with representation from the professional and grassroots game.


Adapting the heading trial for the 2024-25 season

The FA have researched and collected feedback from leagues and clubs taking part in the IFAB trial to remove deliberate heading in grassroots football matches at U12 level and below to see how the experience of the players taking part could be further improved.


The aim is to create more technical opportunities for players with the ball at their feet, allow for more effective playing time, and to reduce the amount of time the ball is in the air during a match.


As a result, from the start of the 2024-25 season for U7-U9 teams, we will also be rolling out the following:


Deliberate Header Restart:

– Deliberately heading the ball is an offence punishable by an indirect free kick

– The indirect free kick is taken at the point where the ball was deliberately headed, except:

– Where a player deliberately heads the ball within their own penalty area, the referee will stop the game and restart with an indirect free kick to the opposition from the nearest side line of the penalty area where the offence took place


Touchline Restart:

– When the whole of the ball passes over the whole of the touchline, on the ground or in the air, instead of a throw-in, a pass-in/dribble-in is awarded

– The kicker that takes the pass-in/dribble-in may touch the ball again before it is touched by another player

– At the moment of delivering the ball:

– The ball must be stationary on the touchline at the point where it left the pitch; only the kicker may be off the pitch

– All opponents must stand at least five yards from the point on the touchline where the pass-in or /dribble-in is to be taken from

– A goal cannot be scored directly from a pass-in

– The ball is in play when it is kicked and clearly moves


Sanctions in the event of a deliberate header in a match:

– From the start of the 2024-25 season, there will be no disciplinary sanctions applied for a deliberate header in a match, unless the action is considered a persistent deliberate offence, which could then result in a caution.


Working with the grassroots game to help implement the new rule

The County FA network, leagues, clubs, coaches, referees and schools across the country will play a key part in helping to implement the new rule. In conjunction with this announcement, The FA will be providing the relevant guidance and will work closely with them over the coming weeks to ensure that they have the support they need to successfully implement the new rule from the start of next season.


The FA will also support any league, club and school who is taking part in the current IFAB trial across the U10-U12 age groups if they wish to continue with the trial on a voluntary basis next season, ahead of the transitional phasing of the new rule from the start of the 2025-26 season.





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