Dame Kelly joins row over claims of a ‘sexist ban’ on young female footballers

Nusrat Ghani
OPINION: Dame Kelly says the rule is a 'barrier’ to girls’ participation

The Kent Girls & Ladies Football League [KGLFL] has more than 60 teams competing in it, including Langton Green CSA, Tunbridge Wells Ladies FC, TW Forresters, Paddock Wood FC, Pembury Athletic Ladies, and West Kent Girls FC.

Last month, the league voted to implement Football Association rule 18(M), which prevents young players from competing in the KGLFL Sunday league, if they are also in a team that competes in the top-flight Junior Premier League [JPL] that play on Saturdays.

ON THE BALL: The rules affect female footballers who play for more than one club

Critics of the move say it comes despite no similar rules being in force for boys, who are free to play in both top flight and leagues.

Karlie Ransley, who started an online petition opposing the decision, says the move is ‘sexist’ and ‘effectively bans’ girls from grassroots football, and claims it has resulted in ten clubs already having been forced to close, affecting 200 girl players.

She said: “When the world football governing bodies are desperately trying to encourage girls to get into football, the young girls of Kent are now being forced to decide between playing with their friends or developing their skills further in a different league.

“Why should they have to choose, when so many other girls in other leagues and boys, too, do not? The rule is sexist, unfair and takes away freedom of choice for young girls in Kent.”

Her petition, which has now garnered more than 4,000 signatures, has attracted the attention of Dame Kelly Holmes, the former gold medal Olympic middle-distance runner.

After signing the petition, Ms Holmes, who lives in Tonbridge, commented: “These rules are not supportive of talent. At a young age, girls especially should be given more opportunities to grow.

“The decline in female sport is increasing because of barriers. If we want future champions, we need to nurture young talent.”


Not discriminatory, says league

The Kent Girls and Ladies Football League (KGLFL) has denied the change is ‘discriminatory’ or constitutes a ‘ban’.

A spokesman for the league told the Times: “Rule 18(M) is a standard FA Rule which is already adopted by seven of the eight youth leagues in Kent.

“The implementation of this rule is intended to safeguard the grassroots integrity of the League’s competition whilst also bringing the KGLFL further into line with other youth leagues in the county.

“It is important to emphasise that all youth football is mixed, however, the majority of these seven youth leagues cater predominantly for boys.”

He added that the rule was voted for by member clubs of the KGLFL following a democratic process and in accordance with FA rules.

The spokesman continued that Rule 18(M) did not ‘ban’ girls from playing in the KGLFL.

“Boys are allowed and entitled to play for teams in the KGLFL, as indeed are girls in the various ‘Boys’ leagues.

“This is an FA Rule. Accordingly, all ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ leagues are, in reality, ‘mixed’ youth leagues.”

He went on: “As a league, we appreciate the Times giving us the opportunity to provide clarity and balance in this situation, as it hasn’t been shown to us by others.”

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