The following provisions apply to any child not registered as an Academy Player. All matches must be played in accordance with the correct version of the Laws of the Game appropriate for the format specified:
(i) Children Under 6 Years Old
A child who has not attained the age of six shall not play, and shall not be permitted or encouraged to play, in a match of any kind.
(ii) Children 6 Years Old and Over – Age Groups, Formats and Related Provisions
For the purposes of (a) and (b) below,
(a) The relevant age for each player is determined by his or her age as at midnight on 31 August of the relevant playing season.
i.e. Children who are aged 6 as at midnight on 31 August in a playing season (together with those who attain the age of 6 during the playing season) will be classed as Under 7 players for that playing season. Children who are aged 7 as at midnight on 31 August in a playing season will be classed as Under 8 players for that playing season, and so on.
(b) Notwithstanding the above, a child is permitted to “play up” in the age group above his or her chronological age group, irrespective of any difference in format or competition structure, save that a child who attains the age of 6 after 31 August is permitted to play only in the Under 7 age group, and may not play in the Under 8 age group for that playing season.
The age groups that children are eligible to play in are set out in the table below, along with the permitted football formats for each of those age groups. Children shall not play, and shall not be permitted or encouraged to play, in a match between sides of more than the stated number of players, according to their age group (please see following page):
|Age on 31 Aug of
relevant playing season
|Eligible age groups||Maximum permitted format|
|6||U7 / U8||5v5|
|7||U8 / U9||5v5 (7v7 if playing up - but see ISFA notes below)|
|8||U9 / U10||7v7|
|9||U10 / U11||7v7 (9v9 if playing up - but see ISFA notes below)|
|10||U11 / U12||9v9 - but see ISFA notes below|
|11||U12 / U13||9v9 (11v11 if playing up - but see ISFA notes below)|
|13||U14 / U15||11v11|
|14||U15 / U16||11v11|
|15||U16 / U17 / U18||11v11|
|16||U17 / U18||11v11|
(c) A child under the age of 15 as at midnight on 31 August in a playing season, shall not be permitted to play in a match during that playing season where any other player is older or younger than that child by two years or more.
(d) However as exceptions to (c) above, The Association may in using its discretion:
(i) Enable disabled children to play football in an age group other than the groups dictated by their birth date, including “playing down”;
(ii) In accordance with a current FA dispensation policy, grant dispensation to enable a child to play football in an age group other than the groups dictated by their birth date, including “playing down”. (See ISFA notes below)
(e) To play in an Under 18 competition, a child must have attained the age of 15 as at midnight on 31 August of the relevant playing season.
(f) To play in an open age competition a child must have attained the age of 16.
(iii) Children 6 Years Old and Over- Competition Structure
(a) Under 7 and Under 8 Mini-Soccer
Leagues may organise a maximum of three trophy events per season, each to be played over a maximum period of two weeks, and may publish the results of such events. The remainder of the season may consist of organised development fixtures only, for which leagues and clubs may collect the results and compile league tables, but must not publish either.
(b) Under 9 and Under 10 Mini-Soccer
Leagues may organise a maximum of three trophy events per season, each to be played over a maximum period of four weeks, and may publish the results of such events. The remainder of the season may consist of organised development fixtures only, for which leagues and clubs may collect the results and compile league tables but must not publish either.
(c) Under 11
Leagues may organise a maximum of three trophy events per season, each to be played over a maximum period of six weeks, and may publish the results of such events. The remainder of the season may consist of organised development fixtures only, for which leagues and clubs may collect the results and compile league tables but must not publish either.
(d) Under 12 to Under 18
There is no restriction on the structure of competitions.
(iv) Sanction Provisions
The written consent of The Association or of the relevant Affiliated Association or Associations shall be required pursuant to Rules B1 and/or B7 as appropriate for any Competition for Under 18 age groups and below.
(v) Gender of Players in Under 7 to Under 18 Matches
A child in the age groups Under 7 to Under 18 inclusive may play in a match involving boys and girls.
(vi) Disability Football - Gender of Players in Under 17 Matches and above
In respect of disability football only, and only in accordance with the current dispensation policy, The Association may, in using its discretion, grant dispensation to permit any team playing at Under 17 level or above to field both male and female players in a match.
(vii) Priority for School Activities
(a) Priority must at all times be given to school or school organisation’s activities in accordance with the recommendations of the “Memorandum: Children of School Age and School Games” whilst a pupil is receiving fulltime education.
(b) All Clubs and Competitions, excluding those whose matches are played on Sundays, shall include in their rules a provision to the effect that the availability of a pupil must be consented to by the head teacher.
The attention of all schools is drawn to the following:
All the rules above refer to players who are not registered with an Academy. The rules for players registered with an Academy, whilst playing within the EPPP Academy system, are different but not applicable in schools and grass roots football.
Maximum Permitted Formats: A player aged 7 may play 7v7 if playing up at U9 level - but 7v7 is not permitted for 7 year olds in general; a player aged 9 may play 9v9 if playing up at U11 level - but 9v9 is not permitted for 9 year olds in general; a player aged 11 may play 11v11 if playing up at U13 level - but 11v11 is not permitted for 11 year olds in general.
Maximum Permitted Formats: 9v9 is the normal format at U11 level in club football, However, in schools football, where the number of available players from which to select is generally smaller, both The FA and ISFA recommend 7v7.
Playing Up: Please note that no player may play more than one year up until the age of 15. A player aged 15 may play 2 years up (ie at U18 level).
Playing Up: No player may play in any match involving open age players (over 18) until he/she has reached his/her 16th birthday.
Playing Down: The FA have indicated that there are circumstances where it may be appropriate for a player to play one year down - ie at an age group immediately below that which he/she qualifies by chronological age. ISFA supports this in regular school friendly fixtures at the discretion of the school. However, it should be made clear that such a decision should be made by the school for sporting, developmental reasons; it is NOT appropriate for a player to play down for convenience, particularly due to academic reasons - eg if he/she is studying in the year below for academic reasons, unconnected to sport. On all occasions where a decision is made to permit a player to play down, the school concerned should inform the opposing team in advance.
Playing Down in Competitions: ISFA will not grant dispensation for players to play down in ISFA National Tournaments. The number of schools believing they have "special cases" which warrant overage players playing down are simply too great. ISFA's competitions are played over a two year age band (three years at U18) and it is believed this is sufficiently wide; all players aged over 9 are eligible to play in one of ISFA's competitions.
Playing Down - Players aged 18 and over: A player aged 18 at midnight on 31st August is regarded as an "open age player" (ie an adult) and the rules outlined above are therefore not applicable. Players aged 18 and over are not eligible to play down.
Please note that matches involving both boys and girls are now permitted up to and including U18 level.