Are these rules the future of junior football in England?

No slide tackles. No shouting from the sidelines. An extra player allowed on the pitch if you trail by four goals. Is this the way forward for youth football in the country?

Youth football action.
Youth football action.

These are all rules the Manchester Respect Junior Football League has for teams at under-seven to under-13 level – and there has been much debate about if The FA should introduce them to all youth football leagues.

The Manchester Respect League has a 12 Rules document (pictured right) which was shared on social media and in stories across the country at the end of last month and provoked much reaction, positive and negative.

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Outlining the rules, the league says: “The FA want junior football to be calmer and safer creating the right environment for faster development. These rules will also encourage players to be more skilful and make matches more competitive.”

Adam Hinshelwood.

The league has received criticism for some of its rules – no slide tackles coming in for the most debate – while a number of others have received praise, especially silent sidelines.

The Manchester Respect League posted a series of tweets in response to some of the negative reaction.

On looking to avoid mis-timed slide tackles that could hurt both players, the league said: “We’re not trying to ‘soften’ the game at all – but surely it makes sense to try and protect players and it’s not for all our age groups!

“For the record – we completely and fully understand the game of football and all the arts involved – reckless tackles lead to so many issues. So we encourage players to stay on their feet and learn to defend that way rather than a last ditch sliding tackle.”

Carl Heskey (back, right) with his Worthing Brazilian Masters under-nine team.

Silent sidelines is a rule many agree with – so children are encouraged, rather than fearful of making mistakes. The league said: “Silent sidelines should be standard everywhere – we are not saying complete silence here – just plenty of encouragement and not screaming.” Explaining their rules as a whole, the Manchester Respect League said: “There are hundreds of leagues out there, we’ve implemented a few things that we believe are correct and realise some won’t ‘get it’.

“Shame there’s so much negativity and comments on how we look at kids football. But also great there’s so many people both connected and not connected that are ‘with us’ and realise what we’re trying to do.”

“Silent sidelines is the way forward”

Craig Stuart, manager of Rustington Otters’ under-13 Youth team, feels silent sidelines are the way forward but does not think sliding tackles should be outlawed.

He said: “I agree with the silent sidelines. Some parents live their lifes through their kids and the way some of them behave can be disgusting.

“My philosophy is you want them to enjoy it.

“Football is a great team game which you make good friends from, that’s what it should all be about.

“Sliding tackles are part of the game but kids need to be coached the right way. It’s a great tool and sometimes you have to do it. What happens if a kid doesn’t make a sliding tackle when they could and the opposition go through and score? What’s that teaching them?

“Retreating to the halfway line is a great rule. It allows the not-so-good teams to play football the right way and improve, rather than just hoof the ball.

“Rustington Otters have this philosophy where the best players play with the best players. The good players still develop and don’t get frustrated or lose interest, while the other players develop and get better.

“I used to think there should be mixed teams as it’s about development, not all about winning, but then you don’t want to hold the good players back.”

“Slide tackling is a fun element of the game”

Worthing FC manager and Worthing Development Centre coach Adam Hinshelwood played professionally at Brighton for seven years and feels slide tackling is an important part of the game.

He said: “You’re taking a fun element out of the game if you stop slide tackling.

“The way football is going, it’s becoming a non-contact sport, it’s becoming more and more like basketball.

“Dunk and Duffy have been earning rave reviews for their performances for Brighton this season, with old fashioned blocks, tackles and headers. What if a kid does a great slide block – not a slide tackle – does that mean it’s a foul? As a defender, you’ve got to do all you can to stop someone from scoring and I’d be very surprised if any defender feels slide tackling should be taken out of the game.

“Coaching from the sidelines should be left to the coach, I agree with that.

“In youth football, neither team gets anything out of it if one side wins 13-0. If a team is that good, they should go up an age group and really test themselves. They’d be at a level where they should be and it will make them more competitive.

“It seems everything is about making things fun but football is about winning at the end of the day. I feel there needs to be more emphasis on the competitive side of it.

“There should be a group of former players, former managers, people who have coached in grassroots football for years and years, who give their opinion and talk about ways to take youth football forward.

“There’s so many people with vast experience out there. Let’s use them and make things better.”

“Slide tackling should go in youth football”

Carl Taylor, manager of Worthing Brazilian Masters Youth under-nine team, does not think slide tackling will be part of the game in years to come – and is in favour of not having it in youth football.

He said: “I think it should go in youth football. I know the argument is it’s part of the game but how many players like Roy Keane or Patrick Vieira are there now?

“In 15 years time, I don’t think the slide tackle will be part of the game anymore. Look at how Manchester City, Spurs, Liverpool and Chelsea, to an extent, play. They close the space and close players down, they don’t go sliding in.

“Slide tackling is an art - like a rugby tackle - and players need to be taught properly.

“I definitely don’t think parents should be allowed to shout instructions. That should just be down to the coach, otherwise a player gets mixed messages and confused.

“I agree with a team having an extra player if they trail by four goals to a point as well. It challenges the team winning to find extra space and work the ball. It also gives game time to another player on the opposition so it benefits them as well.

“Without a shadow of a doubt, I agree with what the Manchester Respect League is doing. It’s trial and error but they’re trying to do what is best for the children.”

What do you think? Do you agree with the Manchester Respect League’s rules?

Do any rules in youth football need changing?

Email your thoughts to [email protected]