IN amongst all the end-of-season awards, promotions and relegations, a fundamental part of football has changed over the last few weeks, writes The Oxonian.

The FA quietly introduced a new rule aimed to phase out deliberate heading in grassroots youth football games. I like to think they sent that out on non-headed paper.

The new rule is, according to the BBC, ‘aimed at under-11 games and below, and will cover all league, club and affiliated school matches’, adding that previous FA guidelines ‘banned headers in practice and training sessions for children under the age of 12. The rule has been introduced after the International Football Association Board tested it out over two seasons’.

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It will start next season for under-seven to under-nine matches, and then expand to the under-10 level the season after, and the under-11s the following year.

Now, readers, I am all in favour of protecting young footballers from the cumulative effect of heading a football. The damage caused is well-documented and there are countless ageing footballers who are suffering from the side effects.

Research is ongoing but heading a football thousands of times is bound to have an effect, especially the heavy leather footballs of previous generations.

Former Oxford captain and centre half John Mousinho has actually donated his brain to science, once he has finished with it, so they can research the damaged that high-velocity footballs caused to his brain over the years.

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But I also worry that the new rules will change the actual way the game is played. What happens with corners? There’s no point punting the ball into the box if nobody can head it. What happens to wingers? Crosses? Head tennis. And if you can’t head the ball then the Big Clumsy Centre Half is going to go the obsolete way of the Lumbering Centre Forward.

Some people were only good at heading a ball, they were useless with their feet. What are tall, talentless wannabe sports people going to play now? I suppose there is always rugby.

Under the new rule, deliberately heading the ball will mean an indirect free kick. Note the word ‘deliberate’. If it brushes your locks it doesn’t count. Based on my own playing days (Morrells Oxford Sunday League Division Five) it was very hard to say if I was ever deliberately heading the ball or just trying to get out of the way.

How are referees going to judge? Maybe make both teams play with a Velcro football and make everyone wear Velcro hats in team colours? That would make it easier to spot.

But joking apart, soon, heading the ball will be a lost art, So, yes, it’s a smart, safety-conscious move to ban heading until footballers are almost teenagers, but it is also going to fundamentally change the way the game is played.

Whether that’s for the good of the game is for you to discuss. It’s just the way football is heading…