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16th Sep 2021

First football match with no heading to take place this month

Daniel Brown

Heading will be completely banned in the second-half

A first of its kind adult football match with heading restrictions will take place in the coming weeks.

In the first half of the pilot match – which will be taking place at Spennymoor Town’s Brewery Field on Sunday September 26 – heading will only be allowed inside the box. This means that attackers still have the chance to scorer a header from a cross, but the number of times it occurs should be significantly reduced.

Should a player head the ball outside the area, a foul will be called and a free-kick will be awarded to the opposition.

In the second-hand, however, heading will be banned completely.

The hope is that the fixture will help to show what the game would look like with heading restrictions in place, and answer a number of important queries e.g. how players control the ball from a goal-kick.

A number of ex-professionals will take part in the fixture that has been organised by Head for Change – a brain charity that is supported by Kevin Keegan, Chris Sutton, Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer – and Solan Connor Fawcett Family Cancer Trust.

Additionally, a number of the games’ legends from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s will be invited to play in the pilot event, or watch if they are unable to feature.

As reachers attempt to discover whether the game can function without heading, in turn reducing the risk of dementia for players, Dr Willie Stewart and his University of Glasgow team found what they believed to be the ‘missing link’ between frequent heading and neurodegenerative disease.

The study found that there is a five-fold risk of developing dementia compared to the general public for defenders, whereas goalkeepers, for obvious reasons, have no increased risk.

As well as this, research found that the longer a footballer plays the game, which would consequently lead to an increased amount of times that they head the ball, there is a greater chance of developing a neurodegenerative disease.

Considering these findings, Dr Stewart asked the football authorities to consider whether heading was completely necessary for the game.

Chair and co-founder of Head for Change, Dr Judith Gates, insisted that her charity aren’t wanting there to be an outright ban on heading, as that it a decision that authorities such as FIFA would have to make after conducting their own trial events.

“Much conversation in footballing circles has centred on making the game safer,’ Dr Gates told Sportsmail. ‘The Premier League and other governing bodies have introduced guidance which limits high-force headers in training. Players, coaches, clubs and fans are asking, “What does this mean for the beautiful game?”

“At all levels of the game, players and coaches have asked to experiment. In response to these queries, Head for Change agreed that the charity game at Spennymoor Town would illustrate some of these issues.

“What happens to the game when heading is only allowed in the box? What happens when the ball cannot be headed? We hope that this experiment will further the discussion and that both players and supporters will have many ideas to share as a result of being involved.”

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