Concerns for children’s welfare as Horsham District Youth Football League refuses to cancel match amid player shortage

A Horsham District football manager is concerned for his players’ welfare after the league refused to reschedule a game.

Friday, 8th October 2021, 3:13 pm

Under 16s boss for Rudgwick Junior Football Team Ed Poole, 54, said he approached the Horsham District Youth Football League (HDYFL) in July asking to move his match on Saturday October 9.

Ed has six of his 15 players taking on the Duke of Edinburgh bronze expedition this weekend and a further player has a family commitment, leaving him with just eight players.

He said: “[I] requested that no fixtures were allocated for my team on this day.

Ed Poole

“In September and before any fixtures had been released the HDYFL were reminded of this date.

“I received an email from them stating that while the D of E was a recognised school event I still had over seven players available so the match would not be postponed.

“I was also told that if I did not play the fixture my team would be fined. The reason given was that if they postponed a match every time they were asked the season would not be finished.”

Ed claimed the Sussex FA backed his team at first, but he said both the Sussex FA and HYDFL later agreed the Duke of Edinburgh scheme is not a recognised event for which matches can be postponed.

He said: “I will be fielding just ten players, two previous members of the team have offered to return for this one match only to help out their friends. Of these ten, one suffers with asthma and others are carrying growing injuries, they are still only 15. So ten will not be finishing!

“The peer pressure on them is immense as they know the task ahead of them and what it means to their team mates should they have to come off.”

Ed said he is concerned for his players’ physical and mental health.

But Ed said in an email received Friday morning Sussex FA said there had been a miscommunication between them and the HDYFL.

He added: “If we were to be fined for not playing they would support us as the HDYFL would be contravening an FA regulation.”

HDYFL have been approached for comment. A representative said officials are meeting tonight and would not comment until after the meeting.

A Sussex County FA spokesman said: “The FA Handbook under section 10 Rules of the Association states:

​C5.1.7 Priority for School Activities

(a) Priority must at all times be given to school or school organisation’s activities in accordance with the recommendations of the “Memorandum: Children of School Age and School Games” whilst a pupil is receiving fulltime education.

If you want further details the Memorandum: Children of School Age and School Games states:

One of the important aspects of games in school is the opportunity they afford of developing a pupil’s sense of loyalty and honour. It is therefore of concern when interest in games outside the school conflict with a pupil’s loyalty to the school and/or school organisations’ activities.

1. It is usually the pupil of outstanding Football ability whose services are sought by any Club, and the Player is most likely to be a member of the school or association team. While schools’ matches are often arranged on Saturday mornings and Club matches take place in the afternoon, it is considered that a player should not play in two matches on the same day, for the one match is likely to affect play in the other.

2. An outside Club or organisation should consult the head-teacher before selecting any child of school age to play for a team, and should accept the head-teacher’s decision on these matters. Head-teachers of schools should not restrain pupils, who are not selected for school games of any kind, from playing for an outside organisation during their free time.”