Previously, many believed that the FA were implementing a new nationwide ‘12 rules’ scheme across all levels of junior football. But these reports which surfaced mid October weren’t exactly correct – the rules do exist but they are not directly associated with the FA. Instead, they are the work of the Respect League – an award-winning, Manchester-based junior football league who have served as pioneers for the innovative rules for four years since their introduction.

Predicated on promoting a safe, calm and fun environment for children playing at the developmental stages, the league has largely achieved its aims through the implementation of these 12 rules amongst several other inventive ideas.

The rules are divided up into subsections based on their intended objective and are as follows:

Calmer and Safer

  1. Silent Sidelines Rule – Spectators are encouraged to applaud both teams (e.g. clap when a goal is scored) but must not shout or call out
  2. Slide Tackling Rule – On medical advice, no slide tackles are allowed. A free-kick will be awarded in every instance
  3. Blue Card Rule – A blue card is shown for any cautionable offence resulting in a 2-minute Sin Bin (5 minutes at 9v9)
  4. Respect Marks Rule – After every match, referees will award marks to players, coaches and spectators from both teams

More Skilful

  1. Retreat Line Rule – When the goalkeeper has possession, the opposition must retreat to the halfway line. The keeper must pass to their own player in their own half
  2. Pass Back Rule – Because goalkeepers need to practice their footwork, they cannot pick up the ball from a back pass

Faster Development

  1. No instructions Rule – Coaches may ask questions that prompt players to think for themselves but are forbidden from shouting instructions during matches
  2. Equal Playing Time Rule – All squad members must receive equal playing time with at least 50% per player per game
  3. All Positions Rule – All squad members must be given regular experience playing in all positions including goalkeeper

More Competitive

  1. Mixed Teams Rule – To maximise competition, clubs must field teams of similar ability i.e. not ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams
  2. Power Play Rule – If any team goes 4 goals ahead, the other team may field an extra player until the goal difference is reduced to 3 goals
  3. Equal Numbers Rule – If a team has too few players, the other must lend them willing subs or withdraw players to make numbers even

These rules are actively encouraging players to be more skilful and in turn, making matches more competitive. The Respect League believes there is real value in being a good technical footballer as well as a good person off the field which these unique rules perfectly reflect.

Prohibiting slide tackles was arguably the most contested of the proposed rules. But criticism was marginally aimed towards what appeared on the surface rather than taking into account the factors behind the decision. Respect League believes that slide tackling isn’t needed in the junior game as the focus should be surrounding keeping children safe while learning the more technical qualities of football before children eventually make that step up to senior level.

Matches are also predominantly played on 3G pitches which make slide tackling a further safety hazard for its participants. But despite this, slide tackles do still remain at U-14 level. This is another sensible decision on the league’s behalf as young adults usually make that transition to a more physically-asserting level of football at around this age anyway.

And it’s no surprise that the league’s popularity has risen substantially since its inception in 2011 with over 230 teams now registered and competing. This serves as further evidence to the success that this forward-thinking league has cultivated and could provide an interesting possibility for further change at junior level in the foreseeable future.

What rules would you add? Give us your suggestions below!

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