What is walking football and how can I take part?

New fitness activities are continually springing up across the country and one of these is walking football. Created by John Croot in 2011, it’s been around for over a decade but is swiftly growing in popularity. As its specifically designed for the older generation, health and safety is a priority and the sport is non-contact with simple, specific rules.

Written by

Sheila Frampton

In many ways walking football is similar to regular football but the biggest difference is that in walking football you are not allowed to jog or run.

You may, of course, walk as fast as you like as long as long as one foot is in contact with the ground at tall times. Tackling is only allowed if there is no contact, all free kicks are indirect and the ball must never go above head height.

Walking football is played on small pitches, indoors, on artificial grass pitches or on natural grass. The game uses small goals and, typically, is played by six-a-side teams.

Who can play walking football?

Originally designed to be played by men over the age of 50 and women over the age of 40, walking football can be played by any age group. Many people in the 70s and 80s play regularly and, in some areas, three generations of one family play on the same team.

Mixed age teams can play in friendlies or regular club matches but the competitive matches have a strict age policy and you’ll only be competing with people of the same sex and same age – for example, men of 50-59, men of 60-69 and men aged 70+. Competitive games for women include the 40-49 category, the 50-59 category and the over 60 category.

Are there any walking football Clubs?

Yes there are clubs all over the country. Club walking football gives you the opportunity to play football regularly, exercise, to meet new people, be part of a football community and to have fun. It also offers competitive opportunities for those who like to compete – to play in leagues and tournaments in the county so you can experience the joy of winning.

Do you have to play walking football in a club setting?

No. You can play anywhere with friends or family – you will need a ball, a small set of goalposts, suitable clothing and a team of people. Pick you own team or organise a group yourself. Across the country, men and women of all ages and abilities are enjoying walking football, finding it a safe way to exercise and an enjoyable way to socialise.

What are the benefits of playing walking football?

What are the rules of walking football, and how do they differ from regular football?

Just as there’s a Football Association, there’s also a Walking Football Association (WFA) with a clearly defined set of rules. The WFA was launched in December 2016 with the aim of inspiring safe and social activity, increasing participation in the game and the reduction of the over-physicality in football. The WFA is run by dedicated and committed players and is registered as a not-for-profit company.

Rules include:

  • Any running or jogging will usually result in an indirect free kick
  • Non-contact
  • Above head height restriction on ball
  • Deflection above head height by goalkeeper – ball retained by keeper
  • No heading the ball
  • All free kicks indirect
  • No offsides
  • No tackling from behind
  • No direct goal from kick-offs or any dead ball situation
  • All free kicks have defenders 3-metres distant
  • Players may not play the ball whilst grounded – to include slide tackling and slide blocks
  • Cornering a player is not permitted – allow opponent to turn
  • No 2 versus 1 tackling at barriers/ wall
  • No tackling across an opponent at a wall/ barrier
  • Playing with reckless or dangerous intent is an infringement
  • One-step penalty kicks
  • No restriction on passing back or out from the goalkeeper
  • Sin bin time out for three either same or different infringements
  • Zero tolerance on abusive conduct

What do I need to wear to play walking football?

  • Surface appropriate trainers or boots
  • A breathable shirt
  • Breathable shorts
  • Shin pads
  • Football socks
  • Hat, cap or gloves – as appropriate for weather

Can I play walking football if I have a health issue? 

Speak to the WFA. The WFA have great expertise in this area. Stuart Langworthy ran The We Are Undefeatable Virtual Walking Football Team and is now involved in setting up Walking Football for Parkinson’s. Paul Murtagh is Chairman of Birmingham Walking Football Club and they run many sessions during the week for players with various impairments. They are building a team of volunteers such as Paul Nicholls who was part of WAU team and is now WFA physio. He has Parkinson’s and is leading in this area. Steve White from Birmingham is leading in the Central area.

The WFA is working in partnership with The England Transplant Football Club to provide all organ transplant, stem cell or bone marrow recipients with the chance to play transport football locally, nationally or internationally.

How do I get started? 

  • Find a group and contact the organiser – do let them know your level of fitness
  • Check that the structure of the session is what you expect
  • You’ll be asked to complete the health declaration form – sometimes called a ‘Physical Activity Readiness’ form.
  • You’ll pay a fee for each session, either in advance or on the day.

What will a session include?

  • A warm up: like any fitness activity, you’ll need to warm up, preparing your muscles for activity and gradually increase you heart rate. The organiser will ensure the warm up is enjoyable including mobility exercises and dynamic stretches.
  • The game: the game will follow the rules set out in this article.
  • A cool down: at the end of the session, you will do a cool down which is an essential part of the activity. It will last between three and ten minutes and include static stretches of the various muscle groups. The purpose of this is to regulate blood flow, prevent muscle soreness and allow your heart rate and breathing to return to normal levels.

Does walking football have referees?

One of the WFA’s priorities is to create a team of trained, accredited referees. By 2020, more than 250 referees had been trained and training courses run monthly if you’re interested in refereeing the game.

Where can I find a club?

There are plenty of clubs all over the country and abroad and we list just a few below. If you want to find your nearest club, please visit https://thewfa.co.uk/club-directory. Many of these clubs are based within a few miles of our current and forthcoming developments, meaning if you're looking to move to a new area, you could make some new friends by joining your new local team. 

Please note... these contact details are liable to change and are not frequently updated. Please find the individual club's website for the most up-to-date information.

Age UK and walking football

The Football Association, Sport England and Age UK have announced a walking football programme, with the goal of reaching more than 1,000 older people in communities across England over the next two years. For details see Age UK's website here.

How do I contact the Walking Football Association?

The Walking Football Association Ltd.
Kemp House,
160 City Road,
London EC1V 2NX


Paul Carr – Chief Executive 
Email : paulcarr@thewfa.co.uk
Mobile : 07517 033248

John Croot – Non-Executive Director
Email: johncroot@thewfa.co.uk

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