Young Gaelic footballer with cerebral palsy wins €5,000 over ban from competition with younger team – The Irish Times

A young footballer with cerebral palsy who had been allowed play with teams of younger girls, but was banned from competitive matches when her former team reached under-12s level, has been awarded €5,000 for disability discrimination.

The Ladies Gaelic Football Association has also been given six months by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to loosen its age rules so that children with disabilities can be allowed a dispensation at juvenile levels up to and including under-12s.

The tribunal was ruling on a complaint under the Equal Status Act 2000, brought on behalf of the girl by her father, against the governing body for ladies’ football.

The WRC was told that from the age of seven, the girl had been allowed to play matches with teams of girls a year or two younger than her as an accommodation for her disability.

At 13 years of age, she was “the size of an average nine-year-old” and ran at a “very reduced speed” compared to her peers and intended to play under-12s football in 2022, the tribunal recorded.

However, on April 8th that year, the day of the first match of the season, the child was initially told she would not be allowed to play because she was “overage”. She played the match following a discussion between coaches, but was not allowed back on the pitch for a competitive game after that.

Giving evidence, the girl’s father said his daughter faced “humiliation” at being denied the opportunity to play which was “aggravated by the fact that her teammates were also, in the main, her schoolmates”.

Following an exchange of correspondence with the girl’s parents, the club took the view that in order to “protect [her] and the club”, the girl could not play “competitive games” at under-12 level – but could keep going to training, the tribunal was told. The decision was affirmed by the county board – and the girl was left “on the sideline for all competitive games” for the rest of the 2022 season, the WRC noted.

The club and its officials were not named in the tribunal’s ruling in order to protect the identity of the child.

The tribunal heard that the girl’s father had pointed out to the LGFA that in Britain, the Football Association had a policy of giving dispensations to its age rules in similar cases.

A senior executive manager with the LGFA who gave evidence, Ms A, maintained that “would not be feasible”.

Adjudicator Thomas O’Driscoll noted in his decision the denial by the club’s chairman, Mr C, that the girl was “never stopped playing because of her disability” but said this was “contradicted” by the WhatsApp messages referring to a risk assessment.

“The playing of games at under-12 level and below should never lead to negative psychological effects for children, especially those already challenged with a physical disability,” he wrote.

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