Friday 26 December 2014

Long history of clubs using children to gain advantage

Sam Wallace

Published 25/01/2013 | 05:00

At Arsenal, they are instructed on throwing the ball back to players at chest height. At Tottenham, they are recruited by the club's community coaches from local schools and clubs. For England games, the FA keeps its own elite team together until they approach the age of 18, when they are replaced with younger children.

Ballboy recruitment was, before Wednesday night's League Cup semi-final second leg at the Liberty Stadium, just one of those things every club had done for years with varying degrees of effort invested and free tracksuits handed out.

Come the FA Cup and league fixtures over the weekend, starting tonight, the scrutiny on ballboys will be that much greater.

The case of Charlie Morgan, the 17-year-old Swansea City ballboy who was at the centre of Eden Hazard's controversial red card on Wednesday night, has shone a light on the hitherto innocuous world of elite-level ball retrieval.

There have long been certain clubs where the ballboys have been used to gain a small margin of advantage. When he was Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho would frequently complain about "disappearing ballboys" when home teams were trying to defend against his Chelsea side.

Last season Stoke City were accused by Neil Warnock, when he was Queen's Park Rangers manager, of only permitting their ballboys to provide ball-drying towels at throw-ins for the home side.

Nevertheless, no ballboy has ever intervened in a game to the extent that Morgan did at the Liberty Stadium on Wednesday, nor is one of those tracksuited children perched on stools behind advertising hoardings ever likely to do so again.

A number of clubs, and the FA, were contacted yesterday about their selection process when it comes to ballboys. At Swansea, the club say they employ 12 ballboys per game, recruited from all over south Wales. The requirement is that they are no younger than 13 and the club said yesterday that all ballboys receive training before they are used at a match. The club said that they are reminded not to waste time in retrieving the ball. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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