Why banning heading would work and how to punish ‘headball’…

Date published: Friday 17th January 2020 9:46

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Why banning heading would work
I totally agree with the suggestion by Luke on banning heading.

I have argued this case on different fora for years. From a medical and player health point of view, allowing players to repeatedly head high velocity balls makes as much sense as boxing does!! None! Zero.

There is a growing body of evidence to prove that repeated heading leads to early dementia and in some cases even premature death. The NFL and Rugby are taking these cases increasingly seriously, but football, regrettably, remains locked in the dark ages.

From a footballing point of view, it would not reduce the fun or the scoring opportunities as much as some would think. Much like the outlawing of the back pass meant that goalkeepers became better footballer, outlawing heading would simply make agricultural football redundant and mandate an increase in technical ability of the players

Banning heading would have to include a law on the maximum height allowed for the foot, so as to increase safety. So, the foot should NEVER be above shoulder level of the upright opponent. There would be no incentive for the opponent to duck or lower his head position since they wouldn’t be able to play the ball with the head anyway. If the opponent ducks down to stop a player from executing a “below shoulder level” shot, then they incur a free kick for the foul of endangering their own welfare.

A corner would then become exactly what Pep Guardiola had it at Barcelona – a simple reset in play and almost always played short.

1) Accidental “headball” becomes a foul: resume play with an uncontested drop ball to the opposition – this would apply in the penalty area as well.

Repeated unintentional “headball” gets a free kick and a yellow card.

2) Intentional “headball”

gains you an automatic yellow card, and if stopping a goal gets you a red card, if in the box it earns an indirect free kick unless it was stopping a goal scoring pass or shot, in which case it earns a penalty. (BTW, that is what I would do with an intentional defensive handball too)

3) Intention is judged by

visible effort to head the ball or no effort to move the head out of the way when in a position to do so, as judged by the referee. Any “headball” leads to a stoppage in play anyway.

All these changes may seem excessive and difficult to implement, but it would only take a year or 2 to embed them, and within 5 years we’d get used to it just like we did with the back-pass. Looking at it now, it seems ridiculous that back-passes were not outlawed earlier.

What does the rest of the readership think on this?
Drew (Dublin)


Great comments by Luke (London) on removing headers from the game, when you look at the brain damage accrued by older players it is shocking. Fair enough the balls are lite today but the speed they move – have you ever had a fully driven shot or a big goal kick land on your bonce – especially when it hits the wrong spot on your head – it’s very painful and does hurt even with a new ball.

Problem is the game would change fundamentally (for the better i believe) and the rule makers while making a complete balls up of VAR (why is it acceptable to play premier league football to a different set of standards to the rest of the leagues in England, doesn’t that make it a ‘different’ game? – How can some of the league/fa cup be under VAR’s gaze if played at a premier league ground but is unable to be used at all other grounds – we are not even playing the same rules in those competitions yet everyone bangs on about the importance of the cups – then how has this difference in rules not been debated more – either use it everywhere or use it nowhere – otherwise we are playing two separate games that look similar but are not the same any longer) would resist taking headers out of an already bastardised game. it would be great – the increase in skill levels (we would all become Brazillians!!) would mean we see a much better game and would be actual ‘FOOT’ball. Corners would be different, the long ball would take on a completely different meaning, passing would get much better – a win all round – the only bit i would miss is the amazing site of a powerful header scoring a goal – however i am happy to miss out on that to ensure we don’t use that delicate thing on our shoulders for something as pointless as headers…
JJT (Arsenal – champions in waiting)

Reds mist
Jimmy (Bring it on) Spain is surely a wind up. He is the reasons fans from clubs from across the country label Liverpool fans unbearable big-heads.

I’m an AFC Wimbledon fan who has little interest in politics at the top table but I found it hard to stomach when Jimmy said United couldn’t be called rivals to the ethereal Liverpool team currently dominating the Prem.

No one is doubting that Liverpool are one of, if not THE, top team in world football at the moment. Their team and form are simply outstanding and I imagine no sane United fans would say anything different.

However, to say that United can’t even be qualified as a rival atm is arrogant to the extreme. You’re certain to win the league this year and are putting in a performance that is unrivalled but if United aren’t a rival then who is? As you state they’re the only team to take a point from you in the league this season.

Even when United were winning league after league in the 2000’s the Liverpool game was one of, if not the biggest, game of the year for United. To claim that Liverpool have transcended this rivalry due to their current success is arrogant to the extreme.

Rivalries are based on an amalgamation of factors and are rooted in history of competition and for a Liverpool fan to feel they’ve superseded this legendary rivalry even before they’ve secured their first league title in 30 years just screams arrogance.

I found Liverpool fans unbearable before they’d won any domestic gongs but I feel it’s only going to get a lot worse come May. I just hope the majority of liverpool fans are more level headed and can enjoy their moment in the sun without trying to drive all-and-sundry insane in ramming home their current success.

As a “lower-league” fan I just can’t stand the insistence of flavour-of-the-month fans in trying to belittle all other teams and rub their noses in the dirt. If anything it goes to show your petty-mindedness and inability to see the bigger picture.

If United aren’t good enough for you now, what does that make the rest of us? It just makes me wish your overinflated bubble of self-gratification will burst and you’ll be toppled from the particularly high-horse you currently perch on.
John-Jack Wanny (it is a special team mind…)


Jimmy from Spain answers that question that I’m sure many of us have asked ourselves recently – is there anything worse than a smug Liverpool fan? The answer of course is yes, an erroneous smug Liverpool fan.

Rashford was on the bench because he, the medical team and the management team thought he was fit enough to be on the bench. Rashford himself came out after the Norwich match and said, “Fancied a hat-trick today but busy few weeks for us. Just a precaution and looking forward to getting back at it Wednesday”. The injury he got was an impact injury to the back, not linked to why he was taken off. However, he might be a bit tired which is why he didn’t start the game. In football you take risks, sometimes it backfires. Every manager does it, you play the margins.

As regards Utd supporters happy to keep Ole on “because he gets the team to perform against the ‘top 6”. This is nonsense. We look for positives and one is his record in the big games. But what will keep Ole on or otherwise is where the team finishes, how we go in the cups and signs that we are heading in the right direction. And Klopp did struggle against promoted sides in his first full season, it’s a rafa benitez stone-cold fact.

It will be a tough game on Sunday, but please universe let us win so we can have some peace and quiet for a few days and not have to listen to the whole Ole out vs Ole in nonsense, when this will only be decided at the end of the season.
Garey Vance, MUFC


…In response to Jimmy (Bring it on) Spain’s mail this afternoon:

As a United fan, I’m not looking forward to this weekends game at all (unless defeat means Ole out and Poch in… I’d accept that), though I didn’t look forward to this fixture even when United were the better team. I’m just a nervous wreck…

I’ll be humble and concede no, of course we’re not competitive rivals at the moment (historic rivals yes), but then did Liverpool fans see it that way when they spent the past 30 years below United? Regardless of which team has been better at the time, it’s rarely mattered in this fixture. Still expecting a battering this weekend though.

Lastly, technically Ole’s record against the top 6 is intact for now, Arsenal don’t count this season do they? (hurhurhur) and something strange happened last week and the City game was cancelled, never to be spoken of again. Let’s just say in the league then. Yes. Ole is a top 6 mastermind. I hope. Maybe.
Chris, Barnet


Can Henderson hack it?
Scott, Nuneaton said this about Henderson:

“It’s why England have to start Winks in the summer and not be tempted to assume that because he looks good for Liverpool, Henderson has the ability on the ball that you need at international level. He simply doesn’t.”

I’m sorry but you are simply wrong. He simply does. I don’t know a politer way to say it. Even if we assume that the champions league and club world cup are not international level, which they are, if not higher, he’s the captain of the team that is the current holders of those titles. He is not captain of the team because everyone else is injured. He is captain on merit and he plays damn well. In the last 12 months he has played and won against the champions of France, Germany, Spain, England and Brazil. He has beaten Harry Winks three times. He has lifted trophies in three countries. Real trophies, not shirt selling events.

Winks may be able to perform against the international level teams of Kosovo and Montenegro. But Henderson performs against the international level teams of Barcelona and Bayern Munich. He simply does.

Quite frankly I’d be happy if premier league winning (please don’t curse it) captain Jordan Henderson got a lovely rest in the summer for Europa cup qualifying Harry Winks.

He simply doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
Alex, South London


I have to take umbrage with Scott of Nuneaton saying that England have to go with Winks rather than Henderson.
He also goes on to say,
‘ It’s why England have to start Winks in the summer and not be tempted to assume that because he looks good for Liverpool, Henderson has the ability on the ball that you need at international level. He simply doesn’t.’
It’s a fact that lots of the players in the Champions League and especially the last 16 are international players. The very same competition that Henderson has captained Liverpool to the last two finals and winning one of them. He is captain of a team who are World and European Champions and this guy thinks he can’t hack it at International level.
It is amazing the differing options of football fans and they range from wise to ridiculous but Scott’s opinion certainly comes in the latter category.
Ken. Ireland

Reviving PL competition
OK, I’ll bite, Liam Gabriel Hoskins.

Do you really think that Southampton would have held on those players and coaches who have moved on if there was a possibility that the Saints could go into a playoff for a Champions League spot? Color me doubtful, but wouldn’t they all want to go to a club that has a pretty good chance of qualifying for the Champions League, on merit, year after year?

Secondly, just taking the last three seasons, the team in 8th (Southampton in 16/17, Everton in 17/18 and Everton again in 18/19) finished 30, 26 and 17 points respectively behind the team in 4th, and 32, 28 and 18 points respectively behind the team in third. Is it realistic or even reasonable to suggest that the eight-placed club (or seventh, or sixth) has any business staking a claim to Champions League spot when they couldn’t compete over 38 games of the regular season? Or that the third-place team should be effectively punished for not finished second? Just because the Championship has idiotic play-offs for the final promotion spot each year doesn’t make it any less of a injustice. By the way, Southampton got into the Europa League after the 15/16 and 16/17 seasons. Remind me how that went again?

Thirdly, winning the FA Cup gets you into the Europa League, and if you’re any good and win that, you get into the Champions League the following year. Seems a reasonable carrot to be “competitive” in the FA Cup.

Fourth, if this idea is adopted (and let’s face it, the powers that be that run the Premier League might just be stupid enough to think about it) when are the playoff games going to be shoehorned into the schedule and how do the players feel about adding potentially three more games before they can think about a break at the end of a long, long season?

And finally, I for one would not want to see Burnley play Barcelona, nor any one of Galatasaray, Crvena zvezda, Dinamo Zagreb, Lokomotiv Moscow, Genk, Slavia Praha, Zenit or Lille, all of whom finished bottom of their Champions League groups this year, and would doubtless be equally unimpressed by the prospect of playing Burnley in a bottom-place face-off. What an exercise in futility that whole thing would be.

On another topic, I heard this morning on the Guardian’s excellent “football weekly” podcast that Manchester United were charging £55 for “away” tickets for the United – Wolves FA Cup replay. How on earth can they justify that kind of blatant rip-off for a midweek 4th-round cup replay? Shameless, that lot.
Steve, Los Angeles

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