Campaign aims to change FAW rules and let Newport girl, 11, keep playing mixed football

Megan Lewis aged 11, from St Julians has been told she can no longer play on mixed football team when she turns 12 (6855496)

Megan Lewis aged 11, from St Julians has been told she can no longer play on mixed football team when she turns 12 (6855507)

Megan Lewis aged 11, from St Julians has been told she can no longer play on mixed football team when she turns 12 (6855525)

First published in News
Last updated

AN 11-year-old footballer known as ‘Mini Messi’ could be barred from playing with her team next season because she is a girl.

But now the young athlete has launched a petition to urge the Welsh Football Association to level the playing field for all girls.

Megan Lewis, of Richmond Road, Newport, plays for the Under 11’s side at the Riverside Rovers.

But the football rules in Wales stop children playing in mixed-sex games when they reach 12, and as Megan turns 12 next March, it means she could be barred from playing for her team from the start of next season in August.

The rules from the Football Association of Wales state: “Except in small-sided matches involving players under the age of twelve years, no football match in which players of the opposite sex are involved shall be permitted to be played [...] except in those area associations where there is no junior league available.”

The FAW states if the provision is there, girls should play on girls-only teams. Andrew Howard of FAW, said: “As there are girls-only teams at that stage, she should play on a girls team. It’s very much to grow the women’s game.”

However, it is not clear what is meant by “provision”. There are currently two girls’ teams in Newport, but there is no girls’ league in Gwent, which may be enough to justify Megan continuing in her mixed team.

Addressing the committee at the Newport District Junior Youth League AGM on Wednesday evening, Megan’s father, James Lewis, said: “We’re looking to establish what the actual rule is [...] the FA rule is a little bit cloudy.

“She’d like right now, to stay with the team. She would like to have the choice to play with her mates.”

Both England and Scotland allow girls to play on mixed teams until they are 15. The FA in England changed their rules as a result of a petition of 6,000 signatures collected by two 11-year-old girls, so now Megan hopes to do the same.

Her mother, Sian Pretty, said: “We want these girls to have the same rights as the girls in England.”

Ask the shy 11-year-old why she wants to stay on her side and her answer is simple: “Because all my friends are there.”

But this is an issue the FAW are investigating. The FAW’s Women and girl’s football strategy states: “The FAW will undertake a review of mixed football, currently operating for under 11’s.”

Mr Howard said the terms and conditions for the review are being drawn up.

In Wales, football is the most popular team sport in primary schools for girls and Megan regularly plays for her school team at Glan Usk Primary. But she has been playing for the Riverside Rovers for six years, where she is the only girl playing at the club.

Stephen Walsh has coached Megan on the Under 11’s Riverside Rovers team for the past two years. He said: “She’s my best player. I think a girl who’s established in a boys’ side should go on until it gets to a stage where it’s too visible. At 15, a girl competing against 15-year-old boys is at a disadvantage, but at this stage it’s not. It boils down to the capability of the individual.

“It’s like a big family at the club and she’s been here so long. I don’t want to lose her. It would be a great shame.”

Although a Manchester United fan, Megan’s favourite footballer is Rachel Yankey, from FA Cup-winning side Arsenal Ladies, who she has written to about her petition. The central midfielder, says she hopes one day to represent her country.

Mr Walsh is supporting Megan’s petition and said: “If she can do it for every team, that’s a result.”

Megan’s online petition, which currently has 150 signatures, can be found at: www.ipetitions.com/petition/raise-the-age-for-mixed-sex-football-teams-in

Comments (8)

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6:42am Fri 6 Jun 14

Katie Re-Registered says...

How awful and what a totally sexist decision by the FA. No-one should be excluded from doing something they want to do and are talented at just because of an irrelevant characteristic such as gender. Why do gender separatist adults feel the need to make so many needless and irrational sexist rules which hamper children's development? Forget the imposition of that needless American Ken and Barbie import - the School Prom - and just let the kids grow up to follow their own inclinations and let's throw the sexist stereotypes that society tries to brainwash and mould them by into the bin where they belong! When will society learn that we're all individuals and can't be divided into artificially constructed sexist stereotypes, eh?
How awful and what a totally sexist decision by the FA. No-one should be excluded from doing something they want to do and are talented at just because of an irrelevant characteristic such as gender. Why do gender separatist adults feel the need to make so many needless and irrational sexist rules which hamper children's development? Forget the imposition of that needless American Ken and Barbie import - the School Prom - and just let the kids grow up to follow their own inclinations and let's throw the sexist stereotypes that society tries to brainwash and mould them by into the bin where they belong! When will society learn that we're all individuals and can't be divided into artificially constructed sexist stereotypes, eh? Katie Re-Registered
  • Score: 0

7:14am Fri 6 Jun 14

JamesL76 says...

Brilliant News! Alan Watkins has confirmed that Megan and other girls in Gwent will be able to play on mixed teams as there is no Gwent Girls League.

He has also kindly said that he will discuss the rule below with members of the FAW on our behalf.

However, the rule does still need changing so that even if there is a local girls league, girls should still be able to choose to continue playing on a mixed team, if they so wish. http://t.co/0JW3ZJBn
fH
Brilliant News! Alan Watkins has confirmed that Megan and other girls in Gwent will be able to play on mixed teams as there is no Gwent Girls League. He has also kindly said that he will discuss the rule below with members of the FAW on our behalf. However, the rule does still need changing so that even if there is a local girls league, girls should still be able to choose to continue playing on a mixed team, if they so wish. http://t.co/0JW3ZJBn fH JamesL76
  • Score: 10

10:23am Fri 6 Jun 14

keithbob says...

my grandaughter is an accomplished footballer at the age of 15.she would love to have carried on playing mixed football too,but is at present with an all girls team.if its allowed in england and scotland why not wales?.b.t.w.whats with the thumbs down for katie??
my grandaughter is an accomplished footballer at the age of 15.she would love to have carried on playing mixed football too,but is at present with an all girls team.if its allowed in england and scotland why not wales?.b.t.w.whats with the thumbs down for katie?? keithbob
  • Score: 6

11:16am Fri 6 Jun 14

Templar05 says...

Katie Re-Registered wrote:
How awful and what a totally sexist decision by the FA. No-one should be excluded from doing something they want to do and are talented at just because of an irrelevant characteristic such as gender. Why do gender separatist adults feel the need to make so many needless and irrational sexist rules which hamper children's development? Forget the imposition of that needless American Ken and Barbie import - the School Prom - and just let the kids grow up to follow their own inclinations and let's throw the sexist stereotypes that society tries to brainwash and mould them by into the bin where they belong! When will society learn that we're all individuals and can't be divided into artificially constructed sexist stereotypes, eh?
You don't see boys rushing to play on a girls team ...anywhere.
[quote][p][bold]Katie Re-Registered[/bold] wrote: How awful and what a totally sexist decision by the FA. No-one should be excluded from doing something they want to do and are talented at just because of an irrelevant characteristic such as gender. Why do gender separatist adults feel the need to make so many needless and irrational sexist rules which hamper children's development? Forget the imposition of that needless American Ken and Barbie import - the School Prom - and just let the kids grow up to follow their own inclinations and let's throw the sexist stereotypes that society tries to brainwash and mould them by into the bin where they belong! When will society learn that we're all individuals and can't be divided into artificially constructed sexist stereotypes, eh?[/p][/quote]You don't see boys rushing to play on a girls team ...anywhere. Templar05
  • Score: 1

11:17am Fri 6 Jun 14

Templar05 says...

Katie Re-Registered wrote:
How awful and what a totally sexist decision by the FA. No-one should be excluded from doing something they want to do and are talented at just because of an irrelevant characteristic such as gender. Why do gender separatist adults feel the need to make so many needless and irrational sexist rules which hamper children's development? Forget the imposition of that needless American Ken and Barbie import - the School Prom - and just let the kids grow up to follow their own inclinations and let's throw the sexist stereotypes that society tries to brainwash and mould them by into the bin where they belong! When will society learn that we're all individuals and can't be divided into artificially constructed sexist stereotypes, eh?
You don't see boys rushing to play on a girls team ...anywhere .
[quote][p][bold]Katie Re-Registered[/bold] wrote: How awful and what a totally sexist decision by the FA. No-one should be excluded from doing something they want to do and are talented at just because of an irrelevant characteristic such as gender. Why do gender separatist adults feel the need to make so many needless and irrational sexist rules which hamper children's development? Forget the imposition of that needless American Ken and Barbie import - the School Prom - and just let the kids grow up to follow their own inclinations and let's throw the sexist stereotypes that society tries to brainwash and mould them by into the bin where they belong! When will society learn that we're all individuals and can't be divided into artificially constructed sexist stereotypes, eh?[/p][/quote]You don't see boys rushing to play on a girls team ...anywhere . Templar05
  • Score: 0

1:09pm Fri 6 Jun 14

Newport87 says...

The reason for girls having to stop playing at the age of 12, is so that it gives them a few years to learn the trades of a housewife. Tea won't cook itself. :)
The reason for girls having to stop playing at the age of 12, is so that it gives them a few years to learn the trades of a housewife. Tea won't cook itself. :) Newport87
  • Score: 4

1:14pm Fri 6 Jun 14

exMark says...

Mini Messi. Good one.
Mini Messi. Good one. exMark
  • Score: 0

7:51pm Fri 6 Jun 14

Thomas O'Malley says...

This is an issue and has been around for a long time and well publicised many times in other cases so it's not likely that the player, parents and coach are suddenly surprised by the FAW rules.

Firstly, all under 12 matches (that's the first season when teams play 11 v 11 rather than short sided matches) must have changing room and shower facilities available. Separate male/female changing rooms are almost never available. Having said that, in practice most teenagers don't bother with the changing/shower facilities - but the facilities must be available.

Secondly, contrary to the coaches point, girls generally mature physically and mentally earlier than boys so a talented girl will often have an advantage over many of the boys.

Thirdly, there is a school of thought that players need to be judged against their peers to assess how good they are and encourage their development. This is usually applied to boys playing against boys of the same age ie a boy may be exceptional against boys the same age and encouraged, but average/poor against boys just a year older and discouraged. By extension a girl may be exceptional against other girls of the same age but average/poor against boys and discouraged.

Fourthly, the FAW tries to encourage the widest participation by girls by encouraging girls teams and girls leagues because a) many girls would be put off playing against boys and b) girls playing in boys teams reduces the pool of players that can play in the girls teams.

I'm not saying I agree with any of the above - but that's the arguments.
This is an issue and has been around for a long time and well publicised many times in other cases so it's not likely that the player, parents and coach are suddenly surprised by the FAW rules. Firstly, all under 12 matches (that's the first season when teams play 11 v 11 rather than short sided matches) must have changing room and shower facilities available. Separate male/female changing rooms are almost never available. Having said that, in practice most teenagers don't bother with the changing/shower facilities - but the facilities must be available. Secondly, contrary to the coaches point, girls generally mature physically and mentally earlier than boys so a talented girl will often have an advantage over many of the boys. Thirdly, there is a school of thought that players need to be judged against their peers to assess how good they are and encourage their development. This is usually applied to boys playing against boys of the same age ie a boy may be exceptional against boys the same age and encouraged, but average/poor against boys just a year older and discouraged. By extension a girl may be exceptional against other girls of the same age but average/poor against boys and discouraged. Fourthly, the FAW tries to encourage the widest participation by girls by encouraging girls teams and girls leagues because a) many girls would be put off playing against boys and b) girls playing in boys teams reduces the pool of players that can play in the girls teams. I'm not saying I agree with any of the above - but that's the arguments. Thomas O'Malley
  • Score: 4

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