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Top girls’ football league faces being shut down by the Football Association for refusing to allow a boy to play in its matches

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  • The FA has threatened the West Riding Girls Football League with sanctions 

One of the biggest girls’ football leagues in the country faces being shut down by the Football Association for refusing to allow a boy to play in its matches.

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that a row has broken out between the FA and officials running a female league in Yorkshire after parents complained their son had not been allowed to join.

It is understood the FA has threatened the West Riding Girls Football League with sanctions and a possible suspension if it does not agree to let boys on the pitch, a scenario officials have branded ‘a massive threat to the girls’ game’.

Last week an emergency meeting was held by organisers of the league – which has at least 6,000 under-18 girls playing across more than 300 teams – where managers voiced their concerns that allowing boys to play would ‘open the floodgates’.

It is understood the FA has threatened the West Riding Girls Football League with sanctions and a possible suspension if it does not agree to let boys on the pitch (stock photo)

It is understood the FA has threatened the West Riding Girls Football League with sanctions and a possible suspension if it does not agree to let boys on the pitch

It is understood the FA has threatened the West Riding Girls Football League with sanctions and a possible suspension if it does not agree to let boys on the pitch

The FA’s gender policy states that any under-16 teams must allow both boys and girls to play, despite admitting that ‘physical strength, stamina or physique’ can put one sex at the disadvantage of the other.

At the end of October last year the boy’s parents asked the West Riding Girls League if their son could join due to him not wanting to play with other boys, and also because of his ability level.

But after the league declined their request, the parents launched an appeal with the West Riding County Football Association – overseen by the national FA – which allegedly told the organisers they were ‘in no position to refuse the application’ and would face sanctions for doing so.

An email from the league’s secretary to its members last week said: ‘This is a massive threat to the girls game and we should be mindful that this could be a long struggle should we fight this head on. 

‘To all intents and purposes we would not just be fighting for the integrity of our girls’ league but all girls’ leagues in the country.’

Furious team coaches pointed out there were mixed sex leagues the boy could join. 

One female club manager said: ‘We’ve spoken to parents and the girls themselves, a number of them we’ve ‘rescued’ from mixed sex leagues where they have been excluded from having the ball passed to them, where they have been tackled and had bones broken. 

‘I have also been informed by parents that they would be looking to take their daughters out of the league and the girls themselves saying they would just give it up if boys joined.’

Fiona McAnena (pictured), at sex-based rights group Sex Matters, said: 'A boy on the pitch changes everything'

Fiona McAnena (pictured), at sex-based rights group Sex Matters, said: ‘A boy on the pitch changes everything’

A male coach said when he asked the girls on his team for their opinion on allowing boys to join they all said ‘they wouldn’t be happy and then four said they would give up playing football’.

Fiona McAnena, at sex-based rights group Sex Matters, said: ‘A boy on the pitch changes everything. The law is clear that female-only sport is allowed. It’s sex discrimination for the FA to tell girls they must accept a male player.’

An FA spokesman said: ‘West Riding FA is working with the relevant league and associated clubs on this matter, and we will continue to support them so that an appropriate solution can be found for all. We want to ensure everybody has the opportunity to play junior football, including within mixed teams if that is the best option. 

‘We have rules in place which are designed to create opportunities for boys and girls to play football together, and to ensure no child feels excluded from our game. Our County FAs across the country continue to work with leagues and clubs to ensure the rule which allows mixed football is used responsibly and in a way that benefits everybody playing the game.’

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