Football crazy?

25 Feb

I don’t usually take much notice of the Daily Mail, but an article on their website caught my eye. It was entitled: ‘Elf and safety brigade slaps ban on footballs in the PLAYGROUND… because they’re too dangerous.

The article outlined the details of the matter, stating that only sponge balls were now allowed at the school in Huyton, Liverpool (ironically the same primary school that Steven Gerrard attended), before ‘subtly’ putting its point across that this is an absolutely preposterous idea.

Actually, I find myself inclined to agree with them.

Can you imagine if this rule had been in place when Steven Gerrard was there? The first time he’d have been hit with a leather ball after leaving school, he probably would have burst into tears and never touched a football again in his life!

At the British Safety Council, we have been campaigning for proportionate risk. It’s not about wrapping our kids up in cotton wool; it’s about allowing them to learn about risks for themselves. How will they learn what they do and don’t like if they never get the opportunity to experience such things?

Another argument the Mail put forward was that football is a great way to help reduce obesity in children, which again, I find myself agreeing with. There has been so much publicity around the fact that we have one of the highest obesity rates in the world, surely it’s a good thing that children are getting out and playing football?

The school’s defence case was that the playground accommodates children aged between four and 11 and they have a duty to protect children of all ages.

This is fair enough because the older children may be more aggressive in their ball kicking skills, but surely there are ways around this issue without having to ban leather balls altogether? How about segregated areas for different age groups?

I’m not a professional footballer by any means, but I can imagine the difference in kicking a sponge ball and a leather ball – just lightly kicking a sponge ball would see it fly off over the wall and into the neighbour’s backyard.

And even with this new ‘sponge balls only’ rule, what’s to stop a child falling over on the concrete and cutting their knee? What’s next, sponge flooring as well?

At risk of sounding like an old man, I used to play football with a leather ball in the playground at school and it never did me any harm.

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3 Responses to “Football crazy?”

  1. Karen Hay March 7, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    I’m all for “sensible” Health and Safety and although I don’t have children, I was one of those children who used to play with footballs/tennis balls/volley balls and clackers (which for those pf you who are not old enough to remember are two small balls tied together with a piece of string which you try to bang together at 90 degrees and 360 degrees. I never took out an eye (my own of anyone elses) and any bruises that I did get from playing with balls taught me to get out of the way quicker!

    A football is pretty light when you compare it to being hit with the likes of a volley ball or indeed a hockey ball – if the H&S “heavy” brigade are going to ban one ball, then they’ll have to ban them all together with the fun, teamworking and co-ordination skills that they give children.

  2. Allan Mac Quaide March 8, 2011 at 9:37 am #

    To me this situation is not a case of creating a safe environment but a fear of being taken to court and having to pay out.
    This ia a classic case of taking a good intention (providing a safe working environment) into a money making industry.
    It happened with time and motion study in the 70s and then Quality standards in the 80s – 90s and now Health and Safety. Next is the environment and corporate continuity and responsibility.
    By all means make the environment reasonably safe but I wonder if this school did not have the threat of litigation hanging over them would they be so paranoid

  3. Helen Scholes March 8, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    I agree that it is not necessary to ban footballs to protect other (younger) children in the playground and am supportive of any moves to encourage our children to be active. However, they have banned footballs at my daughter’s school at playtime as the playground is simply not big enough. She goes to an Inner London school and the playgrounds are very small for the number of children. If one group are playing football, it means that all the other children have to keep to the walls around the playground to keep out of the way. Instead, the school has created play leaders – some of the older children who are given resources and training to lead less intrusive play activities (hopscotch, bean bag targets, etc) and there are football clubs after school for all ages and abilities. So we should perhaps exercise caution in criticising schools when we don’t know all the details.

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