Published: 17:10, 24 July 2021
| Updated: 17:28, 24 July 2021
A petition calling for girls to be ‘un-banned’ from playing football has been signed by more than 1,500 people.
Some 200 girls had their hopes to play for grassroots teams dashed following controversial new rules enforced by the Kent Girls & Ladies Football League (KGLFL), campaigners said.
The league on Thursday passed a vote preventing girls from being dual-signed to clubs in the Junior Premier League (JPL).
But in the wake of the vote, a petition titled ‘Against the Kent Girls Football League ban for Young Players' has this afternoon attracted more than 1,500 signatures, including backing from Dame Kelly Holmes.
Critics say girls are being discriminated against, arguing boys can play both days in other leagues, and questioned the impact on mental health.
“This rule has already folded at least 10 teams, therefore affecting at least 200 girls and this is just those I have been speaking to in the small circle of contacts I have within the girl’s football community,” said Karlie Ransley, who started the petition.
“The children of Kent and the rest of the country has (sic) suffered enough in the last 16 months and their mental health, in some cases, is very fragile.
“These rules are not supportive of talent. At a young age girls especially should be given more opportunities to grow."
“They have been kept safe at home away from sport or any outside school activities, but in doing so they’ve been cut off from their friends,” the blurb on change.org continues.
“Football, to some of these children, is the thing that they look forward to every week, which helps improve not only fitness and mental health for children, but also provides friends for life.”
But the KGLFL doubled down on its vote, insisting no one had been ‘banned’ in a post on Twitter.
It added in a statement that the fresh rules brought girls’ football in line with boys' leagues, and rebuked accusations of discrimination.
“To be clear, the rule does not ‘ban’ any player from playing, not does it discriminate against girls as it brings us in line with many boys' leagues.
“We will happily answer any points or questions that are addressed to us via your club officials,” it said.
Yet Olympian Dame Kelly Holmes weighed into the debate, publicly condemning the move.
The retired middle-distance gold medalist urged the league to act as a conduit for the flow of young talent, rather than stemming it.
“These rules are not supportive of talent," she said.
“At a young age girls especially should be given more opportunities to grow.
“The decline in female sport is increasing because of barriers."
The league has been approached for comment.