Girls soccer team pays price for success

Women's football may be on the up and up but with more young girls keen to make it into the sports higher echelons it seems Norfolk girl's youth teams are paying the price.

Women's football may be on the up and up, but with more females keen to make it into the sport's higher echelons it seems Norfolk girls' youth teams are paying the price.

A ruling made by football's governing body the Football Association in May means that girls who join its centres of excellence can no longer play for their local team as well.

While the association argues this protects the girls and allows them to progress and improve in the sport without "burning out", others say the rule is stripping local girls' teams of their best players and, in some cases, forcing them to shut altogether.

The situation was brought into sharp focus this week as members of Wymondham Hearts girls team came together at Attleborough Youth FC for a final farewell after they were

forced to disband last month.

Many of the girls have been playing together since 2002 and the Hearts have gained a reputation as one of the best teams in their class, bagging numerous trophies.

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But with 14 players, only 11 of whom play regularly, team manager Ian Kindred found he was unable to make up the numbers when six of his girls decided they wanted to stick with the Norfolk Centre of Excellence, based at Norwich City's Carrow Road ground.

He said: "It is not just us, other clubs have suffered, but it has had a particularly hard effect on us because of our standard.

"The ridiculous thing is that, in some cases the girls at the centre who were in our team have gone from having an hour and a half of football a weekend to just 30 minutes.

"I take the point that quality over quantity may be part of the FA curriculum but I do not see how that can be beneficial."

Mr Kindred said another concern was that the team was a social network for the girls and this was now being broken up.

But an FA spokesman said the ruling had been made because its centres of excellence now gave the girls all the training they needed.

He said: "We now provide a sufficient number of hours for youngsters to play the game on a regular basis and this guards against playing too many fixtures and injuries from over- play which is in line with long term player development guidelines."

And there may be hope for Hearts girls who are not in the academy.

While some have joined other teams, Attleborough Youth FC is planning to establish a girls' team to run along their existing boys sides next season, which others are intending to join.