Feel like your days of full throttle football might be coming to an end? There’s no shame in it, and bowing out at the correct time may save you a painful injury. But do not fear, it’s not over, veteran football might just be the sport for you But what does it mean to be a veteran? What's the best way to live out your footballing passion as you get older? Whether you're 35 or 55, playing casually, in a championship or at work, it’s worth checking out this form of the nation’s favourite sport that is growing in popularity itself.
What is Vets Football?
It’s a version of the beautiful game that allows either previous players or older newcomers to kick a ball around at a slower pace that suits them. It’s an excellent way for players to both stay in shape, and also continue on the comadry of playing in a team that so many have been used to throughout the years. While age minimums do vary between each league, it’s usual for most competitions to include players 35+. League games are played both during the week and on weekends.
Veterans Football Rules
- It’s a friendlier version of football, and ultimately, this trumps all the rules. If a referee feels that they need to bend the rules or change them completely in order to maintain the good natured attitude to the game, it can happen. While injuries can always happen, in Veteran football, the main priority is to get minimise anyone getting hurt. There have been cases of referees blowing up because it looked like two players were about to injure each other while going for the ball too heavily. Play was stopped and a drop ball was called.
- Slide tackles are not allowed. No ifs or buts.
- When a goal is scored, the play will restart from the defending team’s goalkeeper.
- Each penalty area is drawn out with a blue area. Only the goalkeeper is allowed inside the blue area, and if an attacking player enters, a foul is called and the goalkeeper’s team will be awarded the ball. If one of the goalkeeper’s defenders enters the area, the attacking team will have a penalty awarded.
- If a player takes a shot and then stumbles into the area, no foul will be given.
- Penalties will be taken with a one step run up.
- If the ball goes over head height, the ball is awarded to the opposing team. This includes goalkeeper throw outs. However if the ball goes over head height via a deflection, it is up to the referee whether or not they call a halt to play.
- Normal play for rules such as offside, out of bounds and other rules such as obstruction (holding the ball for too long) will result in an indirect free kick being awarded.
- The goalkeeper can use his hands or feet at any time.
- Any number of substitutions are allowed, but must be done at a dead ball situation.
- Only contact fouls or handballs are direct free kicks, although again, the referee has the chance to change it if necessary.
- The referee can award sin bins for rule breaking, and may also send players off and ban them for games if they feel necessary. It is far more normal to sin bin players for yellow card offences.
- When a player prevents a clear goal scoring opportunity (as per 11 aside rules) they will be sin binned for at least two minutes and the opposing team will be awarded a penalty.
- If a goalkeeper gains an advantage by leaving their blue area, a penalty will be awarded.
Tips for playing vets football
Liking the sound of Vets football? Before you get started let us give you a few tips on how best to approach the transition to veteran status. The aim: to carry on enjoying and getting fulfilment out of football.
Take The Time To Warm Up
The hardest thing about being a veteran? Avoiding injuries. You think you can play like you're still 20 when you're not. When playing with your mates after work or colleagues at lunchtime, you fall into the trap of going straight onto the pitch and having your first touch without warming up. You might also join the game at the last minute and forget to warm up properly.
These are two "classic" errors that end in injury, since we know 80% of team sport injuries are the result of forgetting to warm up. And let's be honest, it takes longer to get properly warmed up when you're older.
We recommend warming up your muscles for 15-20 minutes. This is essential for reducing the risk of injury.
Know Your Limits!
It may seem obvious but it's important to know your own limits, whatever level you play at.
You need to know whether your body needs more time to properly warm up; whether you need to perform a specific stretch to iron out those little niggles you've picked up over your long and successful career; or whether you just need to quickly wake up your muscles.
You also need to be aware of the limits to your technique, because a veteran's team might have people aged anywhere between 35 and 50. So when that young, feisty 35-year-old goes for a bicycle kick, don't try and copy them!
Opt For A More Reasonable Style Of Play
You'll never lose that competitive streak of your youth. That much is obvious. Your added years won't make you lose that hunger on the pitch. You'll still want to win but it may just not show up in your game as much. As a veteran you'll find you've lost a bit of control and you may make more unintentional mistakes.
But at least you won't be committing any more ugly fouls. The game should be a lot more friendly, so try to keep it clean if you used to be the type of player who'd go for the throat!
In terms of technique and tactics, veterans should use their experience and anticipation more than their speed.
Choosing Is Committing
As a veteran, you've decided to carry on playing football despite your age and family commitments. (Not to mention your usual Sunday plans such as the family meal.) When some people reach 30 they decide to stop playing and focus on their family.
But when you choose to carry on, you're making a commitment to your teammates.
Your team is counting on you. Your reliability and desire to play will be your two best assets. But your wife won't see it that way; she'll have to accept the fact you'll often be out the house training and travelling. You'll need to be mentally prepared.
After The Match
People tend to keep football up for two reasons: the joy of playing and the great company. A veteran's sporting life is marked by training, matches and that famous post-match get-together.
Let's be honest, part of the reason we play is to enjoy those post-match sessions. For football veterans it's all about meeting up after the game, having a chat and enjoying each other's company.
Veterans Football Age Rules
It’s rarely a case of one definitive age bracket. Veterans football is all about inclusion so most associations will do what they can to find you a place to play. The most common approach is to have 35+ leagues and 45+ leagues, but depending on your situation, you may find a team that will let you get involved despite being outside those restrictions. It’s all about having fun!
Vets Football Associations
If you feel like this might be the footballing format for you, check out our list of organisations you can get in touch with to find a team and start a new chapter.