Paul Connolly, left, readers editor at the Belfast Telegraph, says he hopes the Northern Ireland Football League isn’t “getting ideas” from the Football Association, which claimed the publication of scores is “detrimental” to the development of young players in England.
As reported on HTFP last week, the Surrey Mirror received a letter from the Surrey County Football Association advising the paper to stop printing the scores of matches featuring teams between the age groups of under-7 and under-11.
The directive came about following a review of youth football by the FA, which claims the publication of one-sided score lines in print can act as a “disincentive to continue playing for many children”.
In his column for the Bel Tel, Paul wrote: “Unsurprisingly, this has ignited a whole ballyhoo, partly about media freedoms but more properly about children, competition and achievement.
“My first reaction was to disbelieve it. Sometimes the media over-froths at silly things, getting its proverbials in a twist about next to nothing.
“But, lo, it appears so far that, despite the imminent onset of the Christmas silly season, this one has legs all right (if you’ll forgive the pun).
“It is part of a growing movement that wants to protect all younger children from the impact of winners and losers, apparently regardless of what this does to the competitive spirit.”
“Publishing local match reports and scores has been staple newspaper fare for generations. Northern Ireland’s weeklies do it to this day, and the Belfast Telegraph had until a number of years ago a fantastic supplement called Local Heroes, which celebrated local sport, including youth leagues.
“In the old days parents and kids liked nothing better than to see themselves and their team’s trials and tribulations.
“The gee whizz factor of seeing your photo in the local paper has been diluted these days due to the ubiquitousness of online images and video, but it’s still of interest, particularly if it’s surrounded by intelligent analysis or news stories.”
“Let’s hope the Irish League doesn’t start getting ideas just as the Northern Ireland team recovers its competitive edge.”
After the Surrey Mirror reported on the letter it had received, support came from both parents and coaches of youth teams regularly featured in its pages.
Editor Deanne Blaylock said the Mirror would continue to print results “responsibly and sensitively” pending clarification from the FA on the penalties for breaking the directive., while Society of Editors boss Bob Satchwell has written to FA chairman Greg Dyke – himself a former local newspaper journalist – in protest at the move.