SEASON 2021-22


ISFA’s competitions run in line with ISFA’s overarching aim of “delivering football enjoyment for boys and girls in the 21st century”.

The aim of this competition is to provide an appropriate level of competition for school pupils attending smaller independent schools.. In the interests of balanced competition, this tournament is NOT aimed at, or intended for, schools operating an elite football programme.

Academy players (registered under the EPPP), who attend independent schools are eligible to participate, subject to certain restrictions outlined in the Rules below.  However, the primary interests of these players and the responsibility for their football development are catered for within the Academy system and are not the responsibility of ISFA.  ISFA competitions are aimed primarily at school pupils playing recreational football.

Participating schools must abide by the ISFA Code of Conduct.


All participating schools must follow all guidelines and precautions laid down by The FA and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) in relation to the playing of competitive grassroots football.

Spectators will not be permitted except at the discretion of the home school until such time as ISFA states otherwise.

In the event of a local lockdown or other restriction due to covid-19, ISFA reserves the right to determine what action should be taken for any affected match. This may include a school or schools being required to withdraw in order to enable the tournament to progress.

In the event of a national lockdown or similar restriction due to covid-19, ISFA reserves the right to postpone a round, rearrange play-by dates or take any other action that it considers necessary.


Changes for 2021-22 in bold italics. 

1. CONTROL:  The Competition shall be managed and controlled by the Committee of the Independent Schools Football Association.

2. ELIGIBLE SCHOOLS:  All Schools who are Members of the Independent Schools Football Association and who have no more than 60 boys on the school roll in Year 11 at the start of the Autumn Term shall be eligible to apply for entry. However, ISFA reserves the right to refuse entry to any school if, in ISFA’s opinion, that school’s participation is not beneficial to the competition or ISFA.

3. QUALIFICATION AND REGISTRATION OF PLAYERS:  Any boy or girl born between 1st September 2005 and 31st August 2007 shall be eligible to play, subject to the rules outlined below.  If ISFA has any reason for doubt as to the qualification of a player taking part in the competition, it may call upon the player's school to provide proof that the player is qualified according to the rules and, failing satisfactory proof, the player or school may be disqualified from the competition.

Full-Time Academic Education

1.   Players must be full members of the named school and must be enrolled to take a full part in the school's academic curriculum for the full academic year.
2.   Players must take public examinations at the same centre as the rest of the school
3.   Players’ academic results must be included in their school’s published statistics including those seen in the government’s league tables and the national press

Academy Players

1. Schools must identify on the team sheet all those players who are contracted to an Academy operating under the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), hereafter referred to as ‘Academy’
2. No school may name on the match teamsheet more than 2 players who are contracted to an Academy
3. A school naming on the teamsheet and/or playing more than 2 players who are contracted to an Academy will be expelled from the competition and may be subject to further sanction
4. A school failing to identify an Academy player on the teamsheet will pay a £50 administration fee and may be subject to further sanctions (including expulsion from the competition)

Registration of Players

1. Schools must register all players with ISFA indicating their full name, date of birth and, if the player is contracted to an Academy, the name of that Academy. If a player becomes, or ceases to be, contracted to an Academy after registration, ISFA must be informed within 7 days
2. Schools may register up to 30 players in the first instance
3. Schools may register additional players at any time during the season, up to a maximum of 35 registered players
4. All players should be registered no later than midnight on the day before the match takes place
5. Where a school needs to register a player on the day of the match, this must be done by e-mail (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.),  including the player’s date of birth, at least one hour before kick-off. A late registration administration fee of £25 must be sent to ISFA to arrive within seven days of the match. Failure to submit an email and/or pay the £25 fee will result in the player being deemed unregistered and will result in further sanctions (including a £50 late registration fee)

Match Report Form

1. A school naming on the team sheet and/or playing a player who is outside the permitted age range for the tournament will be expelled from the competition and may be subject to further sanction
2. A school naming on the team sheet and/or playing a player who has not been registered with ISFA will be subject to an administration fee of £50 and may be liable to further sanctions e.g. expulsion from the competition or suspension from future ISFA competitions/activities.
3. A school submitting false information on the teamsheet will be expelled from the competition and may be subject to further sanction

Sanctions and Administration Fees

A school not complying with a sanction and/or not paying an administration fee will be subject to further sanctions e.g. expulsion from the competition, suspension from future ISFA competitions/activities.

Transfer between schools

No player may play for more than one school in the tournament in the same season.

4. SAFEGUARDING OF PLAYERS: In all inter-school football, including matches played in this tournament, the safeguarding of the children involved is the responsibility of the relevant school's governance. Safeguarding in school football is underpinned by the Department for Education ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ 2019.

5. ORGANISATION OF THE TOURNAMENT:  The competition shall be played on a knock-out basis with all matches to be decided on the day, with no replays.  The Draw for each round will be made on a regional basis as far as is possible, dependent upon the number of schools involved from each location.  The team drawn first in each tie, with the exception of the Final, will have home advantage. If required, the allocation of exemptions (byes) in the First Round will be determined by ranking, based on the results in the tournament over the previous five seasons.

All matches must be completed by the designated dates for each round.  Schools not completing matches by the stipulated date may be liable to disqualification from the tournament.

6. All matches must be organised and played in accordance with the ISFA Code of Conduct.

7. ARRANGEMENT OF MATCHES:  Teams must agree on a date and kick-off time for their match and must inform the Tournament Secretary of the details within 7 days of receiving the Draw.   Teams unable to agree a date by the deadline should submit their position and proposals in writing to the Tournament Secretary.  The Tournament Secretary will consult the Chairman of I.S.F.A. who may appoint a Disputes Committee to arbitrate and decide on the date (and kick-off time) for the match.  The decision of the Disputes Committee will be final and binding.  I.S.F.A. may expel any school from the tournament if, in its opinion, that school has made insufficient attempt to agree a date or has indulged in unnecessary delaying tactics.  Except in exceptional circumstances, any school refusing or failing to fulfil a fixture will be suspended from future participation in the tournament for a period of not less than one year.

Matches should always be played on the ground of the home school unless specific permission is given by ISFA.  In certain circumstances, if mutually agreed by both schools, ISFA may grant permission to play at an alternative venue.

Except where floodlit facilities are available, all matches must kick off no later than two hours before the published sunset time.

In all matches from the semi-finals onwards, and in all other matches at which a crowd is expected, pitches must be roped off to avoid spectators encroaching over the touchlines.  The home school is considered responsible for ensuring that spectators do not encroach onto the pitch and are kept well back from the field of play.

Any school choosing to book overnight accommodation prior to an away fixture is responsible for informing the home school of these arrangements and of any deadlines in place for cancellation of such a booking should the match be postponed.

8. POSTPONED MATCHES:  In the event of a match being postponed, it must be rearranged before the closing date for the round.  However, in the event of a postponement taking place after the away team have travelled, ISFA will decide on the venue for the rearranged match.  In the event of the pitch conditions preventing the playing of the game by the closing date for the round, the game must be played during the following midweek period or on the next available day that pitch conditions permit (whichever is the earliest).  In the event that the home school pitch is unavailable, then the match will be played on one of the following, the final decision resting with ISFA: 

(i) the ground of the team drawn away 
(ii) a neutral ground arranged by I.S.F.A. 

Matches not completed by the closing date for the round must take priority over all other school games which should be postponed or cancelled if necessary.  Any team failing to comply with this rule may be disqualified from the tournament.  The final decision on the date and venue of matches not completed by the closing date for the round will rest with I.S.F.A.

9. DURATION OF MATCHES:  All matches will consist of 40 minutes each way.  In the event of a draw after 80 minutes play, an extra-time period of 10 minutes each way will be played.  If the match is still drawn at the end of extra-time, then penalties will be taken (as laid down in the Laws of Association Football) to determine the winning team.

10. MATCH PITCHES:  The minimum dimensions for pitches to be used in this tournament are 90 yards in length and 55 yards in width.   

All matches will be played on a grass pitch or a well maintained 3G football turf surface designed to meet the performance requirements of FIFA Quality of FIFA Quality Pro.

Any complaint relating to the dimensions of the pitch, the goals or the safety of the playing surface should be lodged with the referee before kick-off or, if a problem arises after the match has commenced, within 30 minutes of the end of the match.  ISFA must be informed of all such protests within 48 hours unless satisfactorily resolved.

11. OFFICIALS: Unless advised to the contrary, the home school in each match shall be responsible for arranging for a fully qualified, youth registered, independent referee to officiate. A member of staff or parent at the home school or any school with a formal connection to it (e.g. junior/senior school, school under the same ownership/endowment/foundation).   A member of staff or parent at the home school or any school with a formal connection to it (e.g. junior/senior school, school under the same ownership/endowment/foundation) should not referee, even if he is a fully qualified referee.

If payment is required, the home team shall also be responsible for the payment of the referee (and assistant referees if appropriate). The home school will be responsible for ensuring that the referee is provided with a Match Report Form and is fully aware of the rules of the tournament relating to the duration of matches and substitutes. 

On those occasions when there are no neutral assistant referees, both schools will provide someone to act as assistant referee. The precise role of assistant referees, and the extent of their duties, will be determined by the match referee. The appointment of fully qualified, neutral assistant referees will be mandatory from the semi-finals onwards. 

In the event of the home school encountering difficulties in appointing match officials, then they should contact the Tournament Secretary for advice, preferably at least one week in advance of the fixture. 

In the event that the match referee fails to arrive and no assistants have been appointed, then the away team shall be offered the opportunity to provide the referee.  If the away team declines, then the home team will provide the referee and the away team will accept the referee chosen and his/her decisions

12. PLAYING COLOURS:  In the event of a clash of colours, the away team must change unless competing schools agree a mutual alternative.  In the Final Tie, both teams must wear numbered shirts.  In the event of a clash of colours in the Final Tie, the teams will toss a coin to determine which team will change.

13. SUBSTITUTES: Teams may nominate three substitute players who may be used during the match. The names of the three nominated substitutes must be declared to the referee before the start of the match. In the Final Tie only, teams may nominate five substitute players. In all matches, the principle of “repeated” substitutes will be used. A player who has been substituted during a match then becomes a substitute and may, in turn, replace another player at any time, subject to the substitution being carried out in accordance with Law 3 of the Laws of the Game 

14. REPORTING OF RESULTS:  The winning team shall be responsible for reporting the result of the match to the Tournament Secretary (tel: 07413 590909 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 6.30 p.m. on the day of the game.  by 6.30pm on the day of the game.  In addition a short match report should be sent in by 10.00 am on the day after the game. 

15. MATCH REPORT FORM:  Masters in charge shall be responsible for completing accurately the Match Report Form, to be presented to the referee before the start of the match.  Any team giving inaccurate information will be liable to penalty including, in extreme cases, disqualification from the tournament.  The referee shall enter the score, scorers and details of any disciplinary offences.  The home school will be responsible for returning the form to ISFA.


(a) The Referee will report to the Disciplinary Secretary all cautions and dismissals.
(b) Any player receiving two cautions during the competition will be suspended from the Round immediately following the second caution if his School has progressed.  Where the School has been defeated, this suspension will be carried over to the following season.
(c) Any player who is sent from the field of play for serious foul play, violent conduct, spitting or offensive/insulting/abusive language will be suspended from the next two matches in the competition (to be carried over to the following season if not fully served).  A player sent off for any other reason will be suspended for his school’s next match in the competition (to be carried over to the following season if not fully served).
(d) Cautions and pending yellow card suspensions will expire at the end of the season.  Pending suspensions resulting from red card offences will be carried forward to the following season.
(e) Should the Referee report a particularly serious offence, then the Disciplinary Secretary, after appropriate consultation, may increase the automatic suspension. 
(f) Any misconduct by a player, substitute or team official which occurs off the field of play at any time before, during or after the match shall be reported to the Disciplinary Secretary who will, after appropriate consultation, take whatever action is deemed appropriate. 
(g) ISFA will not accept appeals for red cards except in the case of mistaken identity.
(h) Each School is responsible for the conduct of its players, staff, other officials, and spectators. ISFA reserves the right to take action (including expulsion of an individual or a school from the competition) where a player, substitute, member of staff, other official, team or spectator is deemed guilty of conduct liable to bring ISFA or the ISFA Cup into disrepute 
(i) Should the need arise, a Disciplinary Panel shall be appointed and their findings shall be final. 
(j) All schools are encouraged to undertake an FA Respect Handshake before matches in this tournament. The FA Respect Handshake will be mandatory in the semi-finals and Final.

17. SPECTATORS: Appropriate provision must be made for spectators of both teams.  All schools, whether playing at home or away, will be responsible for the behaviour of their own spectators, including pupils, parents and other supporters.  At all other matches at which more than a few spectators are expected, it is mandatory for safety reasons that all spectators are kept back from the touchlines by a distance of not less than three yards by means a rope or barrier.


(a) Where a player is suspended from the Final Tie, having accumulated two yellow cards, the Master i/c football at his School may apply in writing to the Chairman of ISFA for permission for the player to be involved in a non-playing capacity at the Final. The extent of any approved involvement shall be determined by the Chairman of ISFA.
(b) Where a player is suspended from the Final, having been sent off in the semi-final or because of serious misconduct, his suspension will include him being banned from the pitch, its surrounds and the technical areas for the duration of the Final. In exceptional circumstances, Master i/c football at his School may apply in writing to the Chairman of ISFA for this to be reviewed.
(c) A player who is suspended from playing in the Final may not take part in the post-match presentation of ISFA mementoes.

19. FINAL TIE:  The venue and date of the Final Tie will be at the discretion of the Independent Schools Football Association whose decision will be final.  The Independent Schools Football Association will have the responsibility for the appointment and payment of the referee and assistant referees at the Final Tie.  In the event of admission being charged at the Final Tie, gate receipts will be retained by the Independent Schools Football Association.

20. TROPHY OWNERSHIP:  The trophy shall be the property of the Independent Schools Football Association.  The school winning the tournament shall be responsible for the safe keeping of the trophy whilst under the care and custody of that school and shall be responsible for its return to the Independent School Football Association by 1st February in the year following their victory.  The trophy should be returned in the same condition as that in which it was received.

21. I.S.F.A. reserves the right to deal with any matters not specifically provided for in the Rules of the Competition and to take whatever action they deem to be appropriate.


In deciding a date and kick-off time, I.S.F.A. recommends that the following guidelines should be followed. These guidelines will be considered by the I.S.F.A. Disputes Committee in determining the date of a fixture when opposing schools are unable to agree:

1. All matches must be completed by the closing date.
2. When a midweek period is recommended, matches must be played in this in this period unless mutually agreed otherwise by both schools, in which case the agreed date must fall before the closing date for that round
3. the number of lessons missed by both teams should be kept to a minimum whenever possible. Home teams in particular should not normally have to miss lessons except in exceptional circumstances.
4. the team drawn at home should normally have the advantage of playing on their normal games afternoon.
5. morning kick-offs for midweek matches are not acceptable unless mutually agreed by both schools. Except where floodlit facilities are available, all matches must kick-off at least two hours before the published sunset time.
6. whenever possible the cancellation of existing fixtures should be avoided.
7. the playing of matches on consecutive days should be avoided whenever possible but is not considered sufficient reason for refusing to play on a given date if no alternative is possible (particularly if the I.S.F.A. Cup match is the first of these consecutive matches).

Clearly it will not always be possible for all these conditions to be satisfied. There is of course always a danger of becoming too rigid with rules, leading to teams playing by the rulebook and refusing to co-operate. Ultimately our competition relies on goodwill and on schools adopting a conciliatory approach.

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