AT the age of 11, Ellie Parker has been forced to leave her beloved Ighten Leigh Juniors as a result of FA regulations.
The talented youngster played her final game with the boys last week, firing home her last goal for the club as she was named player of the match in a 7-0 win at Readstone which secured a second place finish in the league.
Manager Paul Gidley describes Parker as a “good team player with good link up play, she will be a massive loss to the team.”
Nevertheless, the future is bright for the superstar, who has also been the top goalscorer for Burnley FC Girls Under 11s.
Manager Chris Holden hails her as “one of the best players in the league - she is very keen and has a natural skill level.”
The next step for Parker is trials at Blackburn Rovers’ Centre of Excellence.
Claire Parker believes her daughter “has a real future in football,” with Holden adding that he “would be very shocked if she didn’t get in.”
The decision for girls and boys to part at high school age has been a contention for many years, with local hero Rachel Brown having to endure the same process.
According to FIFA, England have one of the lowest ages of separation in the world. For instance Germanys’ separation is at the age of 16, Netherlands is 19, Scotland 15 and Canada has no restrictions.
Research conducted by Brunel University for the FA found that mixed gender football up to the age of 13 improves skill development, social interaction and the risk of injury is not increased.
This rule was reviewed last year, in which the FA executive and the FA council agreed the age should be raised to 13, but not enough votes in favour were received.
Lancashire FA voted against the age increase, and chief executive David Burgess explained their decision was based on the grounds that “there is more than enough provisions for girls football in the county.”
However, the LFA proposed the age increase to 13 should be optional, and applied to more rural areas “where there are less opportunities due to less players.”
Burgess added that, “up to and including Under 11 is suitable for the football played in Lancashire.”
As the future for integrated football in Lancashire appears bleak, the destiny of Ellie Parker in women’s football looks certain.
She will be greatly missed by everyone at Ighten Leigh, who wish her the best of luck with her future in the game.