Teenage footballer banned for playing in goal

Gazette Series: Ben Hemmings, 17, with his dad Dave after the teenager was banned from playing by Gloucestershire Football Association Ben Hemmings, 17, with his dad Dave after the teenager was banned from playing by Gloucestershire Football Association

A FATHER has been left dismayed after his 17-year-old son was banned from playing for any team by the Gloucestershire Football Association (GFA) because of an 'antiquated rule.

Dave Hemmings, whose son Ben plays for Kingswood, Winterbourne and Mangotsfield teams, was shocked when the governing body banned the teenager for four matches because of a policy on swapping player positions.

Ben, a pupil at Katharine Lady Berkeley School in Wotton-under-Edge, was recently picked to play for the county after a trial with the GFA.

Although he usually plays outfield and is this season’s top goal scorer for Mangotsfield under 18s team, when he was asked to go in goal during his first county match due to injury, Ben was glad to help.

His dad Dave, who has managed local teams himself, said: “We then received a letter in the post saying Ben had been picked for the forthcoming match against Cornwall in goal. I asked Ben and he said he does not like playing in goal and was asked only to help out when the first choice keeper was injured.

“So I immediately told the manager that Ben does not like playing in goal and can he find a replacement - this was two weeks before the game.

“A week went by and I received a phone call saying Ben will have to play in goal or he would be banned.”

Added Mr Hemmings, from Wickwar: “This I found unbelievable, that they would want a youth to play in a position he does not want to play and that they would ban him from playing in goal or outfield for anyone else.

“This is never the way forward in football to threaten someone to play for the county.

“As a manager myself I would not ask or threaten anyone, especially a 17-year-old to play in a position he didn’t want to play, and I always thought youth football was for fun and development. This is obviously not the case with the GFA.”

Mr Hemmings said he had contacted the managers of his son’s local teams but nothing could be done and Ben was banned for a week from playing all matches.

“Ben was gutted as he missed an important Mangotsfield FC cup match where two Bristol City scouts attended,” he said. “And he will have to gain his place again and will have to start on the bench.

“It is just completely wrong.”

GFA chief executive David Neale said the organisation was run by a committee of volunteers who give up their time to give young people a chance to play at county level.

He said the decision was a long-standing rule in line with many other county FAs. Mr Neale said the potential sanction was highlighted in a letter sent to all three of Ben’s clubs and it had been hoped the teenager would decide to play and avoid the band.

Mr Neale added: “Gloucestershire FA has a long and successful history of supporting grassroots football across the county; providing opportunities for players, coaches, referees and administrators to develop and maximise their potential.

“The new football centre at Almondsbury is a prime example as it now provides playing and coaching opportunities for hundreds of young people every week, including dedicated sessions for girls and players with a disability.”

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