Small-Sided Football: Webinar

We hosted a webinar to explain changes in the delivery of small-sided football to clubs, ahead of the 2020/21 season. 

Rationale & Research: Technical Director Dr David Adams

Small-Sided Football: Rationale & Research
Small-Sided Football: Rationale & Research

Changes to the Offer: Head of Player Development Richard Williams

Small-Sided Football: Changes to the Offer
Small-Sided Football: Changes to the Offer

FAQ & Summary: Football Development Manager Rob Franklin

Small-Sided Football: FAQ & Summary
Small-Sided Football: FAQ & Summary

Age bands

The regulation concerning age bands has not been altered. It reads:

2.1 Must be a minimum of a one academic year and a maximum of two academic years.

2.2 A Small Sided player must participate in the age group relevant to their academic year as defined by these regulations and the structure of the league they play in.


To add further context to this regulation:

  • If leagues operate single age groups (e.g. under 7, under 8, under 9, etc) but the club the player is attached to has no relevant age group team for him/her then they are eligible to play up one-year group.
  • Please note that fixtures involving under 11/year 6 players have to be non-competitive. Therefore:
    • If leagues run single year age bands then their under 12/year 7 offer can be competitive
    • If leagues run two-year age bands that involves both under 11/year 6 and under 12/year 7 players, the offer have  to be non-competitive. 
  • If leagues operate two-year age bands, then there is no requirement for clubs to run single age group teams. We would, however, encourage all clubs if practically possible to run single age group teams.
  • Please note that if leagues operate two-year age bands players are still only allowed to play against those one school year older than themselves – e.g. if there is no provision at the club for a under 7 player he/she would not be able to play in the under 9 age group.
  • If a club feel that based on a player's ability, they should be playing either up or down one-year group, permission must be gained annually from the Area Association.


Area Association



Central Wales


Mr. D. H. Jones

[email protected]


Gwent County


Mr. A. Watkins


[email protected]

North East Wales


Mr. D. Fawkes

[email protected]

North Wales Coast


Mr. G. Jones


[email protected]

South Wales


Mr. M. Adams


[email protected]

West Wales


Mr. C. Richards


[email protected]



Playing format

If leagues operate two-year age bands, the playing format would default to the oldest year group regulations. E.g. if the league run under 8, under 10 and under 12 the playing formats would be 5v5 at under 8, 7v7 at under 10 and 9v9 at under 12.



The Regulations concerning the under 11 age group and below are to be implemented from season 2020/2021. Changes to the under 12 age group will be mandatory from season 2021/2022 and mandatory for the under 13 age group from season 2022/2023. Leagues, however, can implement the 9v9 format and the reframed competition offer for the under 12 and 13 age groups from season 2020/2021.


Festivals formats

There have been some concerns from some leagues regarding the logistics of having to organise festival type venues compared to the usually two-team home and away set-up. Due to the disruption Covid-19 has caused, leagues can operate the two-team (AvB) structure for 2020/2021 if they choose but must put plans in place over the coming months for the mandatory festival format (involving a minimum of 4 teams) to take affect from the start of the 2021/2022 season. The FAW Trust can support leagues with this through sharing festival models from other leagues and talking to the facility providers.  Please contact the relevant FAW Trust Football Development Manager if you have any of these issues and require support (please find contact details at the end of this document).


The majority of leagues across Wales operate festival type fixtures for all under 6 – under 11 age groups. These vary from venues where 4 teams play in a round robin to some leagues operating central venues with 10 or more teams attending (teams play a selection of opponents not all). There have been some concerns that festivals will mean games are drawn out with players, coaches, parents out for several hours. Festivals are usually completed in 1- 1 ½ hours.


There have been some concerns about the amount of traffic on an 11 a-side pitch with the introduction of festivals. The small sided pitches can be located in areas of the 11 a-side pitch that tend to be in better condition (away from the goal area for example). Pitches can be set up utilising existing pitch lines or close to touch lines, therefore, parents and supporters are kept behind existing pitch barriers or behind the touchline and not encroaching on the 11 a-side pitch. Depending on how the league operate fixtures, some clubs may host a festival once a month compared to every other weekend which may have happened when operating AvB/two team fixtures. Some leagues have allocated specific venues for small sided football – this is not always a possibility.


Facility providers

Discussions have/will take place with Local Authorities concerning the changes to the Small Sided Football Offer. This will include the alterations pitch sizes.  Ideally pitches will have marked out lines, however, existing 11 a-side pitch markings can be utilised, or cones can be used.


FAW Academies

Academies will follow these regulations.


Players are currently able to register for both an FAW Academy and Junior Grassroots Club. If both the Academy and Club fixtures take place on the same day it is recommended that a Small Sided player should not exceed the playing duration detailed in the regulations in a 24-hour period.


Other football providers

We will be reaching out and speaking with those who offer and deliver football across Wales to ensure the new regulations and principles are implemented. Those who do not comply will not be endorsed by the FAW/FAW Trust.



The FAW Trust have secured some funding to support those clubs that are new to the 9v9 format and require goal posts. The application process will be sent to clubs in due course.


Clubs may be eligible to apply for Sport Wales funding to assist with purchasing goal posts and other items such as coach education. Details of the funding available can be found at:


Goal posts

To assist clubs with the transition to the new regulations, leagues should allow a degree of flexibility regarding goal sizes for the under 6 to under 9 age groups for the 2020/2021 season only. Therefore, clubs can use existing goal posts for the 2020/2021 season if they need to/until funding is sourced.


Mixed gender

The small sided regulations mentioned mixed football is permitted up to academic year 8. The reason for this is that the document only discusses the under 13 age groups and below. As per FAW rule, mixed gender football is permitted up to and including the under 16 age group.


Policing the culture elements

This is the responsibility of everyone involved in the game.


The FAW/FAW Trust will run numerous campaigns and will work with organisations such as ASH Cymru concerning Smoking to support the messaging and how information is delivered to coaches, parents, guardians, and players. We really value your support and efforts in creating a positive and inclusive culture for Small Sided and junior football. Change will only happen if we all get behind the campaign and address negative behaviors that may put young people off the game and cause drop out.


If you have any concerns over negative behavior that you see or are concerned about, please contact the relevant FAW Trust Football Development Manager (please find contact details at the end of this document).


Season structure

Leagues have the option to play fixtures until the end of June. This is not mandatory, and leagues can choose to start and end the season when they want. This regulation allows leagues to be more flexible with the season structure particularly if it has been a wet winter.


Similarly, the winter break is not mandatory but again allows leagues flexibility should they wish to take a break or offer an alternative format such as Futsal.  


Some clubs have expressed concerns about the season being extended to June as they rely on income gained through large festivals/tournaments. If leagues are looking to extend the season into June, we would request that clubs are consulted.


There are a number of 3G pitches across the country which may be an option to play fixtures on in June as an alternative to grass with some Local Authorities resting pitches at this time.


FAW Rule 89

FAW Rule 89 has been amended – competitive tournaments involving players at under 11 and below are no longer permitted in any circumstance (this rule will take affect from the start of the 2020/2021 season).


Under 12 & 13 competition formats 

Over the coming weeks we will provide leagues with several template formats. It will be up to each league to determine what league or cup competitions will look like.


There has been some misunderstanding that leagues are only able to operate for 16 weeks at the under 12 age group from season 2021/2022 (and under 13 age group from season 2022/2023). Leagues will be able to organise fixtures from August through to June. A maximum of 16 weeks can include competitive fixtures. The remainder of the season will have a development focus where no results or league tables are kept. 


Leagues can operate both non-competitive and competitive formats at the under 12 age group to accommodate teams that run either one or two-year age bands. 


Team numbers 

Some concerns have been raised about the reduction in one player from some age groups formats. Based on the research we conducted through Player Maker, feedback gained from other FAs, and guidance from UEFA and FIFA, we believe that the revised formats moving forward are best for our players. The smaller the team number often means more touches, more passes, more time on the ball, and a less complicated version of the game. The introduction of a minimum of 50% game time will help provide adequate playing opportunities for players of all abilities.


Capping team numbers

To help provide adequate playing opportunities, teams should not be made up of more than double the playing numbers for their respective age groups (e.g. at u8 the format is 5v5 therefore the maximum number of players per team is 10).


To add further context to this regulation:

  • FAW Club Accreditation Criteria for the new season has been amended to reflect the Small Sided Football changes.
  • We are not capping the number of players in an age group squad for u6 to u11 and clubs are encouraged to field more than one team if practically possible. For example, Dragon Park FC could have 21 u9 players. On a match day this squad could then split into 3 teams of 7 players. Qualified coach, DBS and 1st aider ratios would need to be adhered to.


Age group

Qualified coach: Players ratio

DBS certified adult: Players ratio

Qualified first aiders: Players ratio

U6 – U8




U9 – U12




U13 – U16





  • A qualified coach must hold a minimum of an FAW Football Leaders Award. Team helpers are able to support the coach on the match day and can supervise a team independently provided they are at the same venue and that they have a valid FAW DBS check – they do not require a qualification. For example, if an u7 squad has 12 players, 2 teams are formed of 6 players, with the qualified coach looking after one team and the team helper looking after the other.


Under 6 and 7

Ideally all leagues across Wales would operate an under 7 age group. Over the past few seasons’, we have seen a growing number of leagues organising fixtures for the under 6/year 1 age group. If leagues do want assistance with creating new under 7 and/or under 6 provision, please contact the relevant FAW Trust Football Development Manager (please find contact details at the end of this document). 



Since Mini Football regulations were implemented in 1996, the game has been controlled by a ‘Game Leader’ who supervises the game from the touchline for the under 11 age group and below (this can be coach, a team helper or a qualified referee). This regulation has never changed to allow the ‘Game Leader’ to be on the field of play.


For the avoidance of doubt, no person should be officiating the game on the pitch. A referee is introduced at the under 12 age group (the 9v9 format) that would officiate the game on the pitch. As part of the review, several on-field referee pitch pilots were conducted – there was a detrimental impact on the number of touches, interactions and a reduced time the ball was in active play. 


For the under 12 and under 13 age groups, leagues will appoint a referee to each fixture. If there is no available referee and therefore, your fixture is ‘unappointed’ please refer to your league’s rules and regulations that will detail who is eligible to officiate the fixture.



The Comet Competition Management system is being rolled out across youth (u18 and u19), adult and FAW Academies from season 2020/2021 with some junior leagues also taking part in pilots/trials. The Competition Management system will be implemented across all junior football, which will include the under 12 and 13 age groups, from season 2021/2022.



Throw-ins are introduced at the under 10 age group. Although Law 15 (The Throw In) applies and the throw in should be taken in the normal way, Game Leaders can show flexibility at the under 10 and 11 age groups.



As per the ‘FIFA Laws of the Game’ - Law 11 ‘Off-Side’ applies to 9v9 Small Sided Football.


Welsh translation

The regulations and any supporting documents will shortly be available through the medium of Welsh.


Covid-19 impact

This has been a difficult period where we have seen significant disruption to the football calendar.


We are continuing to work with Welsh Government, Sport Wales and the Welsh Sports Association and we hope to be able to announce the return of fixtures in the near future.


Please note that to comply with future Welsh Government guidelines there may need to be alterations made to the normal season structure and fixture formats (including festival formats) for the coming season.


Please continue to check the FAW website regularly as information will be updated and added when it becomes available:


FAW Trust Football Development Managers

This document will hopefully have provided answers to queries raised and added further clarity and context to the regulations to help ensure they are more understandable and to ease concerns.


If you have additional league or club specific queries, please contact the relevant Football Development Manager.


Area Association




Central Wales

Kevin Moon

[email protected]

07792 641767



Gwent County

Katy Evans

[email protected]

07387 027931



North East Wales

Mike Parry

[email protected]

07792 642053



North Wales Coast

Mike Parry

[email protected]

07792 642053



South Wales

Rob Franklin

[email protected]


07788 314887

West Wales

Aled Lewis

[email protected]

07387 027932