The Football Association's new plans for Youth and Junior football were originally introduced in 2012 onwards and The FA have produced revised documentation in Summer 2017.

FA Grassroots Football Guide
FA Grassroots Football Guide - Smartphone version
FA Grassroots Football Guide - Poster
FA Schools Guide

The Youth Development Review was aimed at improving the football experience of children, playing the game at grass roots level.   These proposals were put forward following extensive research carried out over several years, including consultation with coaches, leagues and schools around the country, best practice in other European countries, child development experts and also groups of children themselves.

The FA guidelines on the maximum number of players per side in the table below are mandatory.  They are strongly supported by ISFA which recommends strongly that independent schools introduce them as soon as possible.  Most educational bodies (eg IAPS) include the FA regulations in their guidelines to schools.

Fundamental to the proposals is the gradual progression from 5v5 to 7v7, 9v9 and finally 11v11 football, as children age, so that they can play an age-appropriate game enabling them gradually to acquire the appropriate skills and understanding of the game.

Age Format (maximum number -
but can play smaller numbers)
Ball size Approx. pitch size (yards) Max. goal size (feet)
U7 (Yr 2) 5v5 3 40x30 12x6
U8 (Yr 3) 5v5 3 40x30 12x6
U9 (Yr 4) 7v7 3 60x40 12x6
U10 (Yr 5) 7v7 4 60x40 12x6
U11 (Yr 6) 7v7 recommended
9v9 permitted for Year 11 only*
4 60x40 (7v7)
80x50 (9v9)
12x6 to 16x7
U12 (Yr 7) 9v9 4 80 x50 16x7 to 21x7
U13 (Yr 8) 9v9 or 11v11 4 100x60

21x7 to 24x8

NB Where 9v9 is played at U11, no U10 players are permitted to participate.

The table above indicates the maximum number of players on each side but playing with fewer players is permitted and, indeed, varying the number of players per side is encouraged as a good means of providing different experiences for the players. For example 4v4, as opposed to 5v5, is commonplace at U7 and U8; 6v6 can be played instead of 7v7 at U9/U10/U11. 

9v9 is permitted at U11 level for clubs, but is not recommended in schools football.  Where 9v9 is played at U11 level, no Year 5 (U10) players may participate.

Senior schools, who take players from age 11, should note that 9v9 is now the maximum number of players per side at U12 level.

Prep schools who take boys to age 13 and who do not field an U12 team but amalgamate Years 7 and 8 should note the following:

  • Only the most talented U12 players are permitted to “play up” and therefore play 11v11. Widespread 11v11 football for U12 players should be avoided.
  • Prep schools may, if they wish, field an 11v11 U13 1st XI but 2nd, 3rd and subsequent teams should play 9v9 if they are including U12 (Year 7) pupils. Children not of a standard to play in the 1st XI will be able to play at a much higher standard, and therefore learn more, in a 9v9 match.  Schools that play 11v11 at 2nd XI and below and include U12 players will be in breach of FA regulations and this could have insurance implications.

A major part of the FA Review concerned the attitudes of adults coaching or watching children’s football.  Too often the result of matches and competitions is far more important to the adults than to children, who play the game for fun and enjoyment.  There is also concern about coaches who feel it necessary to give constant instruction from the touchline, rather than permitting young players to develop a love for the game, experiment and learn from their own mistakes.

For further information on the FA Youth Development Review proposals, please consult The FA Schools Guide.



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