Small-Sided Football (U6 - U13)


The Football Association of Wales recognises that children do not perform the same as adults in an 11-a-side game.

Therefore, a modified version is required to meet the developmental needs of young players while maintaining all the features and essence of the full game.

Small-sided Football is recognised by the FAW as the only form of football in Wales for children Under 13 years of age.


Small-sided Football is a modified version of the 11-a-side game.

It gives children the chance to play real football, for a real team, whilst experiencing an enjoyable and fun introduction to football through small sided games.


All available research shows that children have more fun and learn more playing a game within smaller teams.

Small-sided Football is therefore ideal for boys and girls in terms of maximizing their enjoyment and technical/skill development.


  • Take an active part in the game and have fun without any pressure from parents, coaches or managers
  • Learn to play within a team
  • Understand and observe the rules of football
  • Develop the skills and techniques to play football
  • Be able to take part whatever their ability
  • Have plenty of contact with the ball


Small-sided Football is for boys and girls aged 5 to 13 of all abilities who are interested in football.

The FAW believes that children should learn how to compete to win fairly, skilfully and within the rules of the game.

At this age striving to win is more important than the outcome, winning is not everything, making the effort is.


  • Recognises that children do not perform and compete as adults and therefore its rules are adapted to meet the needs of children.
  • Has all the features of real football for children.
  • Recognises the value of competitiveness for children and provides an appropriate environment.
  • Sets a standard and a framework of behaviour on and off the pitch.
  • Is for boys and girls regardless of their ability.


There is more contact with the ball in Small Sided Football leading to a better technique.

In 11v11 the ratio of ball to outfield players is 1:20, because there are fewer players in Small Sided Football each player has more regular contact with the ball.

More contact with the ball helps players practice technique and develop technique into a skill through 1v1 competition.

Decision making is easier and occurs more often because of the small numbers involved. As a result, the players will gain a greater understanding of the game.

The basic football situations are easier to see and simpler to solve.

Because the ball is never far away from the player, the chance of developing concentration is greatly increased.

Playing 11-a-side football, many children lose interest in the game because the ball goes out of their immediate vicinity and they quickly become bored spectators.

Fewer players, more space and simpler decisions will encourage more movement of players whatever the situation. More contact leads to more participation and usually, more enjoyment, success is easier to achieve.


Small-sided games have been played for hundreds of years in the street, the playground, or on the beach and many professional teams use them as the basis for their coaching.

They invariably lead to basic football situations, such as, 1v1, 2v2 and 3v3 so typical of the 11-a-side game.

Small Sided Football, through its dynamic tempo, produces more vigorous exercise than 11-a-side football and so helps to improve children’s core components of fitness – speed, agility, balance and co-ordination.



The general aim of Small Sided Football is to provide a safe, supervised environment for children to enjoy their introduction to the game.


1.1 Small Sided Football pitches must be specifically laid out on any suitable open spaces or conventional grass or synthetic surface pitches which can be converted for Small Sided Football.

1.2 There must be no debris or dangerous hazards either on the field of play or in the immediate surrounding area.

1.3 Markings must be laid out with the use of conventional lines, marker discs or small cones.


2.1 Children must wear footwear suitable to the surface being played on.

2.2 All children must wear suitable shin guards.

2.3 All jewellery must be removed.

2.4 Opposing teams must wear colours that distinguish them from each other – either football shirts or bibs can be utilised. Each goalkeeper must wear colours that are distinguishable from the other players. For under 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 age groups, there is no requirement for shirts or bibs to carry numbers for matches.

2.5 Wearing glasses in football - The FAW recommend that players who need prescription lenses wear Polycarbonate lenses when playing football, although we recognise that this may not be possible for all children and Match Officials should be more lenient with younger players. It is important to note as stated in the Laws of the Game “A player must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous”. It is the Match Officials duty to ensure the safety of all participants. As such, if they feel the glasses/frame pose a risk to other players and/or the wearer, they may not allow the glasses to be worn. Match Officials should ensure that if a request has been made to wear glasses or goggles, that as per the Laws of the Game they should be checked and must not be a danger to the wearer or any other player.

2.6 Wearing hearing aids in football - Players are permitted to wear hearing technology during football matches provided they are comfortable and securely fitted. The decision on whether to wear a hearing aid during a match is up to the player, not the game leader or referee. However, the game leader or referee has a responsibility under Law 4 of the Laws of the Game that if a device of this nature becomes loose when playing they will have to request that the player leave the field of play in order for it to be made secure.


3.1 The FAW believe that the game of Small Sided Football provides children with the necessary introduction to competition. The game itself is a sufficient skill development challenge for children.

3.2 As a consequence, no league or cup competition must be organised (or will be sanctioned) involving players in Academic school year six (6) and below.

3.3 Under 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 - matches are played on a festival/round robin format with a minimum of four teams playing at a central venue, and a minimum of 3 teams at a club-based venue. Leagues and Coaches should ensure suitable breaks are provided between games.

3.4 Clubs that enter multiple teams at small-sided festivals are expected to a mix of player abilities across all teams. For example, there should not be an ‘A’ and ‘B’ team made up of perceived strong and weaker players. This is to help ensure a positive playing experience for all participants within small-sided football where the focus should be on fun and skill development.

3.5 Under 12 and 13 - matches are played on a ‘Home and Away’ basis as determined by the organising League.

3.6 League and cup competitions may be organised for the 9v9 Small Sided Football format where children from Academic Year seven (7) and eight (8) are involved. For the avoidance of doubt, if leagues operate a two-year age band and a 9v9 fixture involves a Year 6 player, the offer must be non-competitive. All league programmes must be approved annually by the relevant Area Association.

3.6.1 Under 12 - To help with phased introduction of competitive football for this age group, Leagues can organise a maximum of 20 weeks of formal competition. For the remainder of the season, matches must be non-competitive. At this age group, Leagues must commence their season with an initial non-competitive block of fixtures to ascertain team ability prior to structuring an appropriate competitive offer. It is also important to note that Leagues can organise a number of fixtures during the same week. For example, a League could operate a fixture programme of 24 competitive matches over a period of 20 weeks. All junior leagues must submit their fixture programme to the relevant area association for approval to avoid excessive competitive matches.

3.6.2 Under 13 – Where single age bands apply, Leagues can adopt a full competitive offer at this age group. Leagues operating two-year age bands involving under 12 players, must provide an initial block of non-competitive fixtures followed by a maximum 20 weeks of competition.

3.6.3 Within single age bands, any Under 12 players with existing permission to play up one year, will be permitted to play in the fully competitive offer at Under 13.

3.6.4 Where there is a single age band at under 13, Leagues can offer non-competitive 11v11 fixtures from 1st March in order to support the transition into Junior Football (U14-U17).

3.7 Resources are available via the FAW Trust Small-Sided Football micro-site to assist with fixture schedules, pitch layouts and competition formats.


4.1 Leagues can organise a calendar of matches that may commence in August and should conclude no later than June 30th.

4.2 Leagues can introduce a winter break or an alternative football offer such as Futsal.


5.1 The FAW want to improve the match day culture and off-pitch behaviour of parents, coaches and guardians. As part of the campaign, the following practices must be introduced:

5.1.1 Smoking banned from the side-line.

5.1.2 Supportive side-lines where spectators are encouraged to applaud and praise both teams’ efforts but not shout, call out in a negative way or coach.

5.1.3 Coaches may support players through questions that prompt them to think for themselves but must not continually shout instructions during matches.

5.1.4 All players in the squad should have a minimum of 50% playing time when participating in matches.

5.1.5 To help provide adequate playing opportunities and to grow the game, clubs are encouraged to field more than one team if practically possible. Teams should not be made up of more than double the playing numbers for their respective age groups (for example, the under 8 age group that play the 5v5 format should have a maximum of 10 players per team).

5.1.6 All squad members to benefit from the experience of playing in all positions, including goalkeeper for the under 8 to under 11 age groups.

5.1.7 If teams are low on players and cannot field the correct number, then the other team should provide the additional player(s) or withdraw players to make the numbers even for the under 6 to under 11 age groups.

5.1.8 ‘Behind the Line, Behind the Team’. Leagues/clubs must:

    • Create a ‘Buffer zone’ that runs parallel to the pitch, ideally 2 metres from both touchlines, a smaller buffer zone can be used where space doesn’t allow 2 metres.
    • Buffer zone should be marked by cones or additional marked line.
    • Only players, designated coaches and 1st Aider allowed within zone.
    • All other spectators must watch from behind the buffer zone lines.
    • NO spectators are allowed to stand on the goal line or behind the goal.


6.1 All formats of the game that include players of small sided game age must follow the principles set out in this document (e.g. Futsal, walking football).


7.1 Heading is rarely observed in games involving players aged 11 and under. Coaches should continue to emphasise dribbling, passing, retaining the ball and building from the back. To reduce further the instances of heading within games coaches should encourage short corners and short free kicks that remain below head height. New rules changes have been introduced in this document to further decrease the amount of time the ball is in the air (such as a throw in replaced with a pass in for the under 9 age group and below, and goal keepers in the under 11 age group and below are no longer able to kick the ball out of their hands).

7.2 At under 12 and 13 heading may become more likely within the game. However, coaches should continue to encourage a style of play which limits the number of longer passes in the air.

7.3 Heading practice must not form part of training for boys and girls aged under 11 and under.

7.4 Heading practices are a low priority for boys and girls in the under 12 and 13 age groups. When introducing the specific technique of heading for these age groups, The FAW advise: - a maximum of 10 minutes of any duration training session and a maximum of 4 headers in one bout, using self-serve over short distances.

7.5 Age-appropriate size, weight and the correct pressure of the ball must be used.

7.6 If a player sustains a head injury, or suspected head injury, through a collision or heading drill, they must not be permitted to return to the pitch and the coach must advise the parent/guardian to seek medical advice. Concussion symptoms may vary and can include dizziness, headache, or unsteadiness.

Please refer to the FAW concussion guidelines for a comprehensive list of signs and symptoms of concussion

A player who is not in an enhanced care setting must rest fully for 14 days and be symptom free before they are able to resume a graded return to football activities.