For kids, a good place to start is school. Pick-up games are a playground staple and, as long as somebody has a ball, break time is game time. Playing in confined areas is great for learning important skills, such as close control. But for something more structured, school teams are an opportunity to have fun learning the game in a safe and relaxed environment.
If a school team isn’t available, there are lots of local clubs that welcome boys and girls. In England, to find a club near you, go to your county FA website – there are details on kids’ football and where to go to play it.
In addition, the English FA runs the SSE Wildcats initiative, which organises almost 900 girls’ football centres across the country. There are regular, weekly sessions that girls can go along to, after school and at the weekends, to try the game out and get involved in playing.
In Scotland, there are several kids’ football schemes available, including Mini Kickers, while the Welsh and Irish football associations have plenty of info on their websites on junior football and clubs you can join.
For adults, check if your work has a football team – there are loads of business leagues around the country, playing 5-, 6-, 7- and 11-a-side games. If it is the smaller form of the game that you’re after, there are lots of 5-, 6- and 7-a-side leagues that you can find. Teams are often looking for players – it can often be worth turning up on game night and asking the organiser if any team needs an extra body – or you can set up your own side and register to join.
Otherwise, there’ll be plenty of local clubs that you can contact about playing. Again, your county FA website should have information on teams and facilities. Saturday and Sunday league football is part of the fabric of society in the UK, so whatever you’re like with the ball, you’ll be able to find a game. There are lots of men’s teams and more and more women’s sides.
The women’s game is coming on in leaps and bounds. The growth of professional and semi-professional women’s football in the UK and the performance of the country’s major club and national sides are raising the profile of the women’s game and increasing the availability and standard of coaching and facilities. This is encouraging more and more girls and women to get involved.
The football associations in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all provide dedicated online resources on women’s football, which include information on where you can play and news relating to national and club teams.
If you’re a veteran player and your days playing regular football are behind you, there’s still a game for you. Walking football, a version of the game aimed at people over 50, is becoming more and more popular. As the name suggests, it’s a walking format of the game, in which the main rules are that you’re not allowed to run and there is no contact between players. You can find a club through the Walking Football Association. In addition, the Northern Ireland FA provides details on where you can get a game of walking football in Northern Ireland.
There is also a thriving disability football community. The English FA has a good online resource on disability football, with information on pan-disability and impairment-specific playing opportunities. There is a comprehensive disability football pyramid, with a range of facilities, clubs and competitions.
People suffering social exclusion can get a game, too. The Homeless FA and the Street Football Association offer the chance for socially excluded adults to play football, including the opportunity to represent Street Football Team England and take part in the Homeless World Cup. The Homeless FA is part of Centrepoint, the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, there’s a game of football for you in the UK.