Above all else, the key rules are to enjoy the experience: meet new people, improve your mobility and fitness, go home smiling, want to come back again, oh, and please do not run – keep one foot on the ground at all times!
So what constitutes ‘running’?
- During the course of a physical movement, in a stride, when both feet have left the ground
- As you get fitter, and play more often, it is common place to develop a ‘power-walking’ technique, but a great game often involves players who slow the ball down by offering an outlet to control the direction of play
- In simpler terms, if it looks like running, it probably is!
- So keep one foot on the ground at all times!
Somebody blow the whistle. Unfortunately it is a luxury to have a refereeing, so self-regulation and good gamesmanship should always prevail through consensus of the group playing.
Walking Football is a slower paced version of the regular football game and is primarily aimed at participants who are over fifty years of age. Thus, the playing of the game known as WF should further highlight the decreased speed of play, and be reflected in the rules that govern the game, with a view to simplification and unification of ethos and practise.
As highlighted on the www.walkingfootballunited.co.uk (WFU) website, it is recognised that regardless of mandate, individual active WF venues may not all adopt the same exact principles. This may be due to environmental constraints or differences, or purely a matter of participant playing preference. For example, here at CCWF we allow overhead height and are relaxed on the rule concerning back passing to the goalkeeper.
That is acceptable and should not be totally discouraged. However, in the course of teams playing matches against other clubs as opponents, or in competition, a set of rules have to be devised that are generic, unified, and at best simplified.
WFU have sought to devise a set of rules based upon the FA’s small sided football. Much research has been done, having looked at rules from futsal, 5/6-a-side leagues, mini soccer and numerous WF clubs. The rules explained here have also come from representative playing exposure and from a WF officiating capacity.
No other organisation or football governing body has as yet laid down the defining laws and rules of the game. Of course these should be done democratically and for the benefit of all, but in view of the necessity and required expediency, WFU have presented competition rules which do have proper objectivity and regard for the general WF populous.
The following guideline rules laid down by WFU are those generally adopted nowadays for WF Tournaments. Feedback and discussion on any of the rules is always encouraged and considered.
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Running is defined specifically as no jogging, sprinting, running on or off the ball by any player at any time. Players observed to be running off the ball but not directly influencing play or the outcome of play, or gaining an advantage through their actions may be warned of their actions during the course of play without the need to stop play.
A player gaining an advantage of position or influence of play by a running action will be in breach of the ‘no running rule’ and will have a free kick awarded against that person and the team that person is playing for. In a competitive game where a referee is present, persistent further infringements to the ‘no running’ rule by that same person will have further disciplinary measures taken against them e.g. sin bin or sending off!
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Contact during football cannot be avoided. Accidental, clumsy, poor timed challenges or interceptions will most certainly occur during the course of play.
- What exactly constitutes contact?
- Will the referee be able to observe each coming together?
- Or will the referee observe a contact of feet on the blind side?
- Are defenders obliged to let attacking players move through them towards the goal unopposed in their acceptance that they cannot make contact?
Tackling in regular football is an integral part of the game. This should not change just because the pace of the game has been decreased. There is still a joy to tackling and the art should not be deprived just because age may be considered a determining factor when denying that component of the game to all.
- Low impact contact is permitted during the course of Walking Football.
- Tackling, interception, blocking by standing ground, is an accepted part of the game.
- Tackling from behind where contact is made; ankle-rapping from the sides, clumsy, ill-timed, forceful tackling is not an acceptable part of play and will be deemed as an infringement.
Head height restriction
Numerous venues up and down the country play the ball above or below head height. Sometimes this may be dependent on facilities having low ceilings or the size of an outdoor pitch, or the number of players involved.
At CCWF it is a group preference to allow overhead height, as other outdoor venues will tend to do. Indoor sports halls may also choose to play with a slightly heavier, lower bounce ball, which may make heading the ball uncomfortable, with an added risk injury to senior players, so there may be a tendency to play WF with a head height restriction on the ball in these circumstances.
By and large, the majority of WF venues nationwide will be indoors, or outside on small pitches, so with this in mind, all Walking Football competition games will generally have a head height restriction on play, regardless of games being played outdoors.
Playing the above head height rule:
If a ball in play has been deemed to be an infringement of the head height restriction, an indirect free kick will be given to the opponents of the person that caused the ball to rise above head height by deliberate kick or a deflection off that person; to be taken from where the ball was originally kicked or in the case of a deflection, at the place where the ball last hit the person causing it to rise above the head height restriction.
The only exception is when the ball is saved or deflected by the goalkeeper in the process of making a save. The ball shall in this instance be retained by the goalkeeper if it rises above head height.
Should a goalkeeper intentionally throw the ball or kick the ball from the penalty area and it rises above head height an indirect free kick shall be awarded to the opponents, to be taken 3 metres outside the penalty area to where the infringement occurred.
What height is the restriction set at?
This shall be set from the tallest player on the pitch. The referee has the final say as to whether or not the ball has infringed the head height restriction.
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Direct free kicks may be taken quickly, without the need to blow a whistle to proceed with the kick. Defences may not have the time to organise themselves adequately. A goalkeeper may also not have had sufficient time to acknowledge that the kick has been taken or having taken suitable positioning.
A goal may have been conceded in the process of the defensive team not understanding or accepting the award of a free kick, and without the due process of appeal, disagreement or clarification. At CCWF we tend to go with allowing direct free kicks but the camaraderie is such that we try and allow both teams to get ready together before proceeding (hard to do though!)
With an indirect free kick, defences have time to organise themselves and the goalkeeper will also benefit from the additional time before the referee allows the kick to be taken. As walking football is a slower version of regular football, each opportunity to slow the game down proportionately should be applied. In WF competitions, free kicks are generally all taken indirectly.
- The penalty areas should be marked by lines, the distances preferably as stated in Small Sided Football Laws of the Game. Venues may have differing size penalty areas, and this has to be taken into consideration.
- The goalkeeper is the only player permitted in the penalty area.
- Should the goalkeeper leave the penalty area intentionally or they have not made sufficient effort to stay within the confines of the penalty area, a penalty is awarded to the other team.
- If in the course of making a save the goalkeeper has by momentum left the area, play should continue, unless he/she is still holding on to the ball in which case this is hand ball and a penalty is awarded..
- A goalkeeper may not run in the process of making a save, or in attempting to cover ground whilst in the area.
- If a defender encroaches into the penalty area and an advantage has clearly been attained, a penalty is awarded to the opposing team.
- A defender that has entered the penalty area by momentum, and is not in possession of the ball, and/or has not caused the ball to be deflected, and has made efforts to stop themselves despite entering the area, will be deemed acceptable, with no infringement sanction applied.
- An attacking player entering the penalty area will have a free kick awarded against them, to be taken where the infringement occurred, or generally from the goalkeeper.
- If in the course of play an attacker enters the area through contact with another player, but has not gained an advantage in the outcome, play will continue.
- If an attacking player has taken a shot on goal outside the area but momentum has carried that player into the area, play should continue, and a goal awarded should the outcome have been so.
- If an attacking player has entered the area and has made efforts to stop themselves, no action is required if there is no advantage gained.
- Generally speaking – the game is played in the right spirit, and players are fully aware of the rules regarding entry into the penalty areas. Accidental or intentional intrusional entry into the penalty area is determined by the referee or by common sense through consensus of players.
- This may occur without the referee having spotted such intrusion, despite appeals from the participant players. A forceful penalty kick from the penalty spot to a target up to 6 metres away and up to 5 metres wide represents a realistic opportunity to score, despite the presence of a goalkeeper.
- Such scoring opportunities cannot be afforded based upon the discrepancy that player has accidently or intentionally, minimally or marginally entered into the penalty area.
Kick-ins / Throw-ins / Roll-ins
Kick-ins are generally used to replace throw-ins, though roll-ins and throw-ins are allowed. However, if the game has an above head height restriction, players are not permitted to throw the ball into play from above head height (unless they are physically incapable) as this action will be carried out contravening the head height restriction with an over arm throwing motion.
A goal cannot be scored directly from a kick-in, roll- in, drop ball or centre spot kick to start or resume a game after a goal – unless it has touched another outfield player.
- Goalkeepers may receive the ball from team mates with no stipulation that there has to be at least two passes between defenders before the goalkeeper may receive a back pass.
- The goalkeeper may take longer than four seconds to play the ball out, but not long enough that it is considered time wasting.
- When a goalkeeper receives a pass back they may elect to either pick the ball up and throw it with an under arm motion out of the area, or they may use their feet and play the ball out without the need to pick it up.
- NB Other forms of small sided football/futsal etc may have rules that differ from Walking Football with regard to stipulations on pass backs, e.g. a Goalkeeper may not receive a pass-back from the player to whom he has just passed the ball to.
- From kick-offs, kick-ins, drop balls and free kicks – all opponent players must be 3 metres from the ball.
- The 3-metre exclusion allows space and time for the free kick to occur in relative ease and without congestion. The distance is proportionally reflective with the full size regular game.
- If an offensive free kick is awarded close to the penalty area, the ball is moved 3 metres away from the penalty area line so that the defence is able to be positioned between the ball and the penalty area.
- A player may not hold onto a barrier or wall during the course of play in the process of shielding or blocking the ball or holding play up.
- An unfair assistance can be gained by adopting a holding of walls or barriers, and unfairly inhibits an opponent from making a tackle or interception. The only exception is in the process of acquiring a stop, turn of direction or a means to regulating balance.
- An indirect free kick is awarded against any person holding onto barriers or walls.
- It goes without saying that the prevention of another player’s right to play by Holding them is also an infringement.
- Scoring may occur from any part of the pitch except the goal areas.
- Scoring from only the opponents half of the pitch will tend to congest areas, and will inhibit long range attempts on goal.
- Shooting from distance can be opportunistic and reap success – as well as the potential to lose possession through the process.
- It goes without saying that the prevention of another player’s right to play by Holding them is also an infringement.
- Only played in competitions, the referee has the discretion to apply a blue card 2-minute time-out sanction on players guilty of infringements.
- A further, second, blue card exclusion to the same player can be handed out for another infringement.
- A player handed a third, blue card exclusion will have a red card accompany the blue card. That player is sent off and may not play any further part in the game.
- Competitive WF requires the need to have infringements acted upon. A 2-minute time-out gives an advantage to teams that have abided by the rules and penalises teams that have their players guilty of infringements.
- The game has become all the more competitive when teams face opponents from other areas, or during the course of a tournament.
- Impartial, unattached referees should only officiate during competitive matches.
- Should a red card be applied to a player, that person may play no further part in the game that they have been excluded from, or during the course of a penalty shoot-out to determine the outcome of a result from a tied match.
- A team having a player sent off may substitute that player: after 5 minutes of further play, or if the other team score a goal – whichever occurs first.