Children across Scotland will kick start their football development journey this weekend as the small-sided games season gets underway in its entirety for the first time in two years.

After the Covid-19 pandemic forced the season to be cut short for each of the past two years, the small-sided games season will provide children with the opportunity to develop on the player pathway while enjoying the game in safe, welcoming environments.

Beginning with four v four multi games for the youngest age groups and progressing to nine v nine games, the player pathway promotes progressive, flexible and challenging games activity with the ethos of “Let Them Play” at the heart of all sessions.

Following the philosophy that ‘the game grows with the child’ the player pathway sets out principles and guidelines on best practice for providing children with fun opportunities to enjoy football and develop as young players through our national game.

The Scottish FA, Scottish Youth FA and Scottish Women’s Football support small-sided games to enable all children to develop while ensuring that the best possible environment for children is nurtured – one where children and spectators are reminded to enjoy the game in a relaxed atmosphere at all times.

To make the games as enjoyable as possible, the Scottish FA promotes five key recommendations:

  • All parents, carers and other spectators must stay 2m back from the pitch. Where possible, this should be done via a marked off area.
  • No parent or carer should attempt to enter the field of play.
  • All parents and carers must ensure that they are following their own club’s Code of Conduct.
  • Spectators should encourage participants at all times.
  • Let the children play the game, making sure we encourage before and after the game - during the game let the grassroots volunteers deal with the game.

Scottish FA Chief Football Officer Andy Gould: “After being unable to kick off on schedule for the past two years, the start of the small-sided game season on schedule this year is the latest positive step for grassroots football in Scotland after two successive seasons were cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Small-sided games don’t just allow children to develop on the pathway, they provide so much enjoyment for the children as they hone their skills in a fun atmosphere with their friends.

“The small-sided season is integral in helping children to fall in love with the game and we want to remind all parents, carers and spectators that it is vital that children are allowed to enjoy their games in a positive atmosphere.

“Anyone watching one of the small-sided games is asked to ‘Let Them Play’ – encourage the kids at all times and let them play the game freely.”

For more information on the player pathway, or to download the small-sided games Android app (iOS version coming soon) visit: Children's Player Pathway | Football Development| Scottish FA

A reminder that in the children’s game it is advised that there is no heading practice at training and that heading within the game environment is reduced. Heading guidelines for children’s football can be found at: https://www.scottishfa.co.uk/football-development/participation/childrens-youth-football/heading/