The Football Association of Wales (“FAW”) 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 11 years of age (and for Under 12 from season 2021/2022 and for Under 13 from season 2022/2023).
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.
Small Sided Football is for boys and girls aged 5 to 11 (aged 5 to 12 from season 2021/2022 and aged 5 to 13 from season 2022/2023) 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.
Small Sided Football:
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 coordination.
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.
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 the under 11 age group and below.
3.3 Under 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 - matches are played on a festival format with a minimum of four teams playing at a venue. Leagues and Coaches should ensure suitable breaks are provided between games.
3.4 Under 12 and 13 - matches are played on a ‘Home and Away’ basis as determined by the organising Junior League.
3.5 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 format must be non-competitive.
3.5.1 For the under 12 age group, Junior Leagues can organise a maximum of four (4) trophy events per season over four (4) week periods (a total of sixteen (16) weeks of formal competition) from the 2021/22 season.
3.5.2 For the under 13 age group, Junior Leagues can organise a maximum of four (4) trophy events per season over four (4) week periods (a total of sixteen (16) weeks of formal competition) from the 2022/23 season.
3.5.3 Trophy events could be League or Cup competitions and can be determined by the Junior Leagues.
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:
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 or is suspected of a head injury they must not be permitted to return to the pitch and the coach must advise the parent/guardian to seek medical advice. RECOGNISE, REPORT and REMOVE in a case of concussion and follow the relevant guidelines.
The rules are simple and as near to real football as possible. A game leader, who is urged to be as flexible as possible with the players must supervise the game from the touchline for the under 11 age group and below. 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).
Rules are explained as the game proceeds (e.g. hand ball). It may also be necessary to demonstrate in certain instances how to restart the game (e.g. throw in, corner kicks).
1.1 Small Sided Football is for boys and girls in Academic Years one (1) to six (6). (From season 2021/2022 Academic Years one (1) to seven (7) and from season 2022/2023 Academic Years one (1) to eight (8)).
1.2 An Area Association can extend in its area the scope and application of the Small Sided Football Regulations to cover Academic Year seven (7) and eight (8) (refer to Section H of the FAW Rules). For the format and rules for Academic Year 7 and 8 refer to clause 15. (9v9 Small Sided Football) in these regulations.
1.3 Mixed football (boys and girls playing together) is permitted for Academic Years one (1) to eight (8).
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.
2.3 For the purposes of age groupings, an academic year begins on the 1st September and ends on the 31st August of the following year. Academic year one (1) is the year in which a player reaches his / her 6th birthday.
3.1 Must be implemented as below in the table:
3.1.2 Under 6 and 7 - The FAW suggest using rectangle shaped goals but Pop Up Goals (4ft or 6ft) may be used.
3.1.3 Pitches should be marked out to the size detailed in the above table. This may not be possible at every venue. For this reason, a degree of flexibility will be allowed. Pitches should not differ more than 5 yards in length and/or width.
3.1.4 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.
3.2 THE GOAL AREA
3.2.1 Must be marked by conventional lines or cones on the touchline and a small number of marker discs on the playing area (refer to 3.1 for area sizes).
3.3 PLAYING DURATION
3.3.1 Under 6 and 7 – Game duration should not exceed 10 minutes. There is no half time. For example, Leagues could organise 4 x 10-minute games in accordance with the maximum playing duration of 40 minutes.
3.3.2 Under 8 and 9 – Game duration should not exceed 15 minutes. There is no half time. For example, Leagues could organise 5 x 10-minute games or 3 x 15-minute games in accordance with the maximum playing duration of 50 minutes.
3.3.4 Under 10 and 11 – Game duration should not exceed 20 minutes. A half time interval should be taken if exceeding 15 minutes of play. The duration of half time should not exceed 5 minutes. For example, Leagues could organise 3 x 20-minute games or 4 x 15-minute games in accordance with the maximum playing duration of 60 minutes.
3.3.5 It is recommended that a Small Sided player should not exceed the playing duration detailed in the above table in a 24-hour period.
3.3.6 When training coaches should ensure player welfare is the paramount consideration and take a common-sense approach to ensure practice is appropriate for the children for whom they are responsible.
4.1 Any number of substitutes may be used at any time (Rolling substitutes).
4.2 Players may re-enter the game.
4.3 All players in the squad should have a minimum of 50% playing time when participating in matches.
4.4 Under 6, 7, 8 and 9 - No substitute should be waiting longer than 5 minutes before they are involved in the match.
4.5 Under 10 and 11 – No substitute should be waiting longer than 10 minutes before they are involved in the match.
5.1 Is taken in the centre of the playing area to start the game and after a goal has been scored.
5.2 The opposition must be 3 yards away from where the ball is placed
5.3 A goal may not be scored directly from the kick-off.
6.1 Laws 9 (Ball in and out of play) and 10 (The method of scoring) apply to Small Sided Football.
7.1 There is no offside (Law 11) in Small Sided Football.
8.1 Under 6, 7, 8 and 9 – The method of restating play when the whole of the ball passes over the touchline is by a pass in.
8.2.1 The ball must be stationary from the point where it left the pitch before it is kicked to restart play.
8.2.2 The ball must not be kicked overhead height.
8.2.3 A goal may not be scored directly from a pass in.
8.2.4 The opposition must be 3 yards away from where the ball is placed.
8.2 Under 10 and 11 – Throws ins are introduced. Although Law 15 (The Throw In) applies and the throw in should be taken in the normal way, game leaders can show flexibility.
9.1 Under 6, 7, 8 and 9 – The method of restating play when the whole of the ball Law 17 (The Corner Kick) applies to corner kicks except the opposition must be at least 3 yards away.
10.1 Law 12 (Fouls and Misconduct) applies to free kicks although they are all indirect and the opposition must be at least 3 yards away.
11.1 Can handle the ball in their goal area and there are no restrictions on the number of steps they may take holding the ball.
11.2 The Goalkeeper can leave the goal area but cannot handle the ball outside the goal area.
11.3 When handling the ball in the goal area, goalkeepers can throw the ball out of their hands or kick the ball on the ground but can then be challenged by opponents. Drop kicks are not permitted.
12.1 The ball must be stationary and from the ground.
12.2 The ball is in play when it is kicked and clearly moves.
12.3 Under 6 and 7 - Are taken anywhere on the goal line.
12.4 Under 8, 9, 10 and 11 – Are taken from any point within the goal area.
12.5 Under 8, 9, 10 and 11 – Opponents must be outside the penalty area until the ball is in play.
12.6 In all age groups a retreat line is introduced, and the opposition players must be a minimum of 10 yards away from the point where the goal-kick is taken.
13.1 There are no restrictions regarding the number of players allowed in the goal area during open play.
14.1 Under 8 and 9 – Players can pass the ball to their own goalkeeper, for the goalkeeper to handle the ball.
14.2 Under 10 and 11 - Players cannot pass the ball to their own goalkeeper, for the goalkeeper to handle the ball.
15.1 Team Size, Pitch Size, Ball Size, Goal Size and Match Duration.
15.1.1 Must be implemented as below in the table: -
15.2 SQUAD SIZE
15.2.1 Teams at the under 12 and 13 age groups can have a match day squad cap of up to 18 players, all of whom are eligible to play (teams can use all 9 substitutions – please refer to 15.7). Teams are capped at signing 20 players.
15.3 An 11v11 pitch can be adapted for the 9v9 format, utilizing the width of the penalty area (44 yards) for the 9v9 pitch width and the distance from penalty box to penalty box for the 9v9 pitch length. See diagrams below for guidance:
15.4 GOAL SIZE
15.4.1 The goal size is 16-foot (width) x 7 feet (height).
15.5 PENALTY AND GOAL AREAS
15.5.1 The Penalty area must be 28 yards wide and 12 yards from the goal line. A penalty spot should be marked 9 yards from the goal line.
15.5.2 A Goal Area is not necessary, but goal kicks are to be taken approximately 4 yards from the goal line. A painted marker 4 yards from each post is sufficient for guidance.
15.5.3 For dedicated 9v9 pitches a goal area can be marked out. This is to be 4 yards from the goal line and 4 yards from each goal post towards the corner.
15.6 MATCH DURATION
15.6.1 A match must be a maximum of 70 minutes, split into two halves of 35 minutes. The duration of half time should not exceed 15 minutes.
15.6.2 If leagues operate a two-year age band and a 9v9 fixture involves a Year 6 player then the Match duration should not exceed 60 minutes.
15.7.1 Any number of substitutes may be used at appropriate breaks in play with the permission of the referee, a player who has been replaced may re-enter the game (rolling substitutes).
15.7.2 All players in the match day squad should have a minimum of 50% playing time when participating in matches.
15.8 KICK OFF
15.8.1 Is taken in the centre of the playing area to start the game and after a goal has been scored.
15.8.2 The opposition must be a minimum of 7 yards away from where the ball is placed.
15.9 BALL IN AND OUT OF PLAY AND THE METHOD OF SCORING
15.9.1 As per the ‘FIFA Laws of the Game’ - Law 9 (Ball in and out of play) and 10 (The method of scoring) apply to 9v9 Small Sided Football.
15.10.1 As per the ‘FIFA Laws of the Game’ - Law 11 ‘Off-Side’ applies to 9v9 Small Sided Football.
15.11 THROW IN
15.11.1 As per the ‘FIFA Laws of the Game’ - Law 15 ‘The Throw in’ applies to 9v9 Small Sided Football.
15.12 CORNER KICKS
15.12.1 As per the ‘FIFA Laws of the Game’ - Law 17 ‘The Corner Kick’ applies to 9v9 Small Sided Football.
15.13 FREE KICKS
15.13.1 As per the ‘FIFA Laws of the Game’ - Law 12 ‘Fouls and Misconduct’ applies to 9v9 Small Sided Football.
15.14.1 Can handle the ball in their penalty area and there are no restrictions on the number of steps they may take holding the ball.
15.14.2 The Goalkeeper can leave the penalty area but cannot handle the ball outside the penalty area.
15.14.3 The Goalkeeper can throw or kick the ball out of their hands; the Goalkeeper can also kick the ball on the ground but can then be challenged by opponents.
15.14.4 Pass Back to Goalkeeper - Players cannot pass the ball to their own Goalkeeper, for the Goalkeeper to handle the ball.
15.15 GOAL KICKS
15.15.1 The ball must be stationary and from the ground (refer to 15.5.2 for location).
15.15.2 The ball is in play when it is kicked and clearly moves.
15.15.3 Opponents must be outside the penalty area until the ball is in play.
15.16 PLAYER IN THE GOAL AREA
15.16.1 There are no restrictions regarding the number of players allowed in the goal area during open play.
15.17 THE REFEREE
15.17.1 Each match is controlled by a referee who has full authority to enforce the rules of 9v9 Small Sided Football and the FIFA ‘Laws of the Game’.
For further info on the laws of the game please refer to the ‘FIFA Laws of the Game document’.