It may be our national game, but increasingly children find it difficult to play football in the street or the park without provoking complaints. John Dean looks for a sporting compromise.

IT is a scene enacted in just about every street in the land as youngsters play football and dream of scoring the winner in the World Cup Final. And it is a safe bet that the next Alan Shearer or Wayne Rooney will first hone their talents playing football on a street corner or a patch of scrubby grass near their home.

Such pastimes are ingrained deep within the North-East pysche: the opening credits for Look North's regional television programme, for instance, show children kicking a ball against a gable end of a terrace house.

However, it can also lead to conflict; residents, very often pensioners, accuse the youngsters of thoughtless behaviour, nuisance and damage; the young people protest that they are doing no harm, that they are simply desperate for somewhere to practise their skills, and that there is nowhere else safe to play.

The solution, as with most contentious issues, lies somewhere in between. The Northern Echo set out to canvas some views.

Case study

THE issues surrounding a play area in Eaglescliffe, on Teesside, illustrate the dilemmas which communities face accommodating young footballers.

Children playing football at Amberley Way prompted Egglescliffe Parish Council to step in, following complaints from local people.

The play area, which is bordered on three sides by houses, has a range of play equipment for small children at one end and a patch of grass at the other, which is used by older children for football.

People living nearby complained about footballs being kicked into gardens and damage, including to their fences.

The council is now investigating installing wooden stepping stones on the grassed area to add to the play area's attraction while making football more difficult.

Parish council chairman, Coun Sue Ireland, who says she realised the footballers did not mean any harm, adds: "There were complaints from residents about nuisance and damage. Groups of older children playing football can be intimidating, particularly for older people.

"We had to do something but we did not want to be seen just to be taking something away. Our idea is a compromise."

The council says it is sensitive to the desire of young people to play football and does not want to be seen to be ruining their fun, pointing out that the teenagers are old enough to walk to several other grassed areas in the area, where playing the game causes less controversy.

Council clerk Helen Rennison says: "We can see both sides."