Never mind the shiny stadiums, it’s down the park where the action happens. It’s where people of all ages, all over the world, have a kick around.
The park is where you learn, practice, and show off your skills – the ones you see the pros get out game in, game out. It doesn’t matter how old you are, the park is where you do it. Although new types of playing surfaces have been introduced to recreational surfaces, the spirit of park football will never die.
Where Are The Best Parks In The UK For Football?
So, where can you go for a kick around, to glide like Sterling, step over like Cristiano or mesmerise like Messi?
Well, there are good parks in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester and elsewhere, but the best one, the one that you should go to, is your local park. Grass, artificial turf, concrete, it doesn’t matter. Grab a ball, get down there, pop up a goal or two, and get a kick about going.
So, where should you go for a game? Here’s our rundown of the best parks to play football in the UK
Hackney Marshes, East London
Seen by many as the capital’s premier spot for Grassroots football, this green space lying on the Western bank of the river Lea boasts 88 full-sized pitches. Hackney marshes is home to over 100 Sunday games during the season, involving several local leagues (so maybe don’t go on then if you’re looking to play).
Glasgow Green Football Centre, Glasgow
It’s home to some of the country’s greatest managers, including Sir Alex Ferguson, Jock Stein, Sir Matt Busby, and Kenny Daglish, and the fearsome Rangers - Celtic rivalry, so of course the city has its own football centre. Situated in Glasgow’s oldest park (which was also a fan park for Scotland’s involvement in the 2020 European Championships) Glasgow Green was reopened at the start of the new century and has a number of the state of the art 3G pitches and goals.
Woodvale Park, Belfast
Comprising over 25 acres and opened in 1988, this popular city park is both a location for remembering Belfast’s past and a great place to play sport. It has a range of facilities, which include 7 aside to full football association-specified pitches.
The Meadows, Edinburgh
The birthplace of the city’s two clubs Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian in 1870, and the venue for their very first derby in 1875, which is now commemorated with a plaque on the eastern side of the park. Located in the South of Edinburgh, the Meadows remain a popular spot for budding footballers to kick a ball around and even get involved in a game.
Londonderry Park, Newtonwards
Without interrupting the existing parkland, this space now also home to a series of modern sporting facilities, including 3 floodlit pitches (one of which is FIFA certified) as well as four grass pitches. It also features a sports pavilion, which allows for views across all the sports pitches, the park, and the wider County Down area.
Wythenshawe Park, Manchester
A park that blends history, conversation, and sporting activity. Within the 109 acres of meadows, woodlands, and open grassland, are 8 full-sized football pitches, and also a multi-use games area (also known as MUGA). Each of these pitches can be booked online and also have changing rooms.
Cardiff House of Sport, Cardiff
Modelled on premier league training grounds and in partnership with Cardiff City Football Club, this is an innovative complex that was built to boost the sport in the community of South Wales. There are actually 3 different facilities across the site, with House of Sport 1 offering an indoor 3G 9 aside pitch, House of Sport 2 which has several multi-sports courts which are perfect for a game of Futsal. Once you’ve finished playing, you can take advantage of the House of Sports Cafe Central.
Heaton Park, Manchester
It’s the biggest park in the city, the largest municipal park in the whole of Europe, and also a park with 3 fully sized football pitches. If you’re looking for a day of exploring and activities, pack both your ball and your walking boots and head to Heaton Park.
Ruskin Park, South London
Named after the art critic, philosopher, and philanthropist John Ruskin, this Edwardian Park is not only one of the Lambeth Council 12 Green Flag awarded spaces but also has a selection of different areas to kick a ball around on. With a view that spans across the London skyline, footballers have the option to create their own grass pitch or play in one of the two Dustbowl facilities at the front of the park, which are both equipped with goalposts.
Forest Recreation Ground, Nottingham
Another city with a great history of football, and as part of their ‘City of Football’ partnership with the Nottingham City Council and Nottingham Forest in their community, this complex has been built to create much-needed sporting opportunities for those in the area. It includes a range of much-improved pitches, including 3G, artificial, and MUGA. It’s available to anyone and worth checking out if you’re in the Nottingham area.
Victoria Park, East London
Known as ‘The People’s Park’, this has been a vital recreational area for members of the East End of London since the second half of the 19th century. As well as a popular venue for concerts and music festivals, Victoria Park has 5 pitches for winter and 2 for summer, making it a great place for a kick around, whatever the season.
Isle of Eriksay, Outer Hebrides
Although it is not a park per se, you won’t find many more beautiful spots to play football in the UK. Situated North of Scotland and with a population of just under 200, Eriksay gained fame a few years ago with the news that only does Eriksay have its own football pitch that’s recognised by FIFA, it has its own football team in the form of Eriksay FC. Although the island’s location means that conditions aren’t always ideal for a game, the views from the football pitch are something else. If you haven’t seen the story and the images of the pitch, it’s certainly worth checking it out, and if you ever find yourself on the way to Eriksay, remember to bring a football.
The Players Park Football Has Helped Produce
And you never know where a kickabout down the park might lead. Going for a game can be the beginning of something extraordinary. It’s where talent is spotted. England star Raheem Sterling was spotted playing games in Cassiobury Park in Watford, displaying the skills he’d learned playing street football in Jamaica. It wouldn’t be long before he was playing in the World Cup.
Ballon d’Or winner, Real Madrid galáctico, and Croatia legend Luka Modrić is another player who belongs to the any-pitch-will-do club. He taught himself to play football in a car park, spending countless hours on a makeshift pitch next to the hotel where he and his family lived. Algeria’s Premier League champion Riyad Mahrez honed his skills playing on the concrete pitches of Sarcelles banlieue in Paris.
Then there’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who attributes his world-beating skills to the highly competitive boyhood games he played on the streets and in the parks of his home island of Madeira. He says that playing in small areas helped him improve his close control technique. It also helped him win a museum full of trophies, medals, and awards.