161,412 grassroots participants register within Scottish Football by year end

Female registered participants in Scotland breaks record for second consecutive year

More than 60 percent of registered players under 18 years of age

Scottish grassroots football reached new heights in 2023, as a record number of participants registered to participate in the national game.

A total of 161,412 participants were registered throughout Scotland at the end of the year – the second consecutive year that a new record has been set in grassroots football participation.

Girls’ and Women’s football participation has also continued its upward trend in Scotland, achieving record numbers for the second consecutive year, with 22,977 registered participants in 2023.

The record number of female participants also represents the highest ever percentage of the overall registered participants figure, with girls and women now making up 14.2 percent of all registered grassroots players.

The grassroots game also continues to boast a strong following from young people, with under-18s accounting for more than 60 percent of the total registered participants. 

The growth in the game is the core objective of the Scottish FA’s grassroots strategy, Football for All, while the increase in female participation comes as a result of the association’s dedicated girls’ and women’s strategy Accelerate our Game, produced in partnership with UEFA.

The strong figures for youth participation, meanwhile, build on the recently published study Getting it Right for Every Child in Scottish Football – Young Players Have Their Say, which showed that young people and children in Scotland overwhelmingly enjoy and feel safe when playing football.

The record figures come after another year of the Scottish FA delivering programmes tailored to drive grassroots participation, just some of which include:

  • McDonald’s Fun Football sessions, which aim to provide children aged from five to 11 from all backgrounds with access to free football sessions run by a mixture of Scottish FA coaches and trusted delivery partners.
  • The KDM Group Soccer Centres, which are designed to encourage girls of primary school age into the game.
  • Mini-Kickers, fun participation sessions for three- to five-year-old children that provide the ideal first step into lifelong football participation.
  • UEFA Disney Playmakers, a pan-European participation initiative that has already introduced over 3,200 girls aged between 5–8 years old to football in Scotland through sessions held in 118 centres across the country by over 160 UEFA playmakers trained coaches.


Scottish FA Head of Football Development Paul McNeill: “The growth in the game would not be possible without the dedication of the hard-working volunteers and staff involved with community clubs across the country, while the Affiliated National Associations continue to play a vitally important role supporting local leagues in providing local, regional and national competition structures.

“Despite the challenges facing all of us, such as the cost-of-living crisis and a lack of accessible facilities, football has shown time and again that it wields a remarkable power that transcends the football pitch.

“At the Scottish FA, we are dedicated to delivering football for all and have a number of initiatives in place to address accessibility issues, such as working with delivery partners to distribute more than £20 million of UK Government funding by 2025 to redevelop facilities across the country. 

“Research that we have conducted in conjunction with UEFA has proven that football gives back to society through the increased physical and mental wellbeing it provides and the more stakeholders we can convince to help us deliver football throughout Scotland the better positioned society as a whole will be.”

Scottish FA Head of Girls’ and Women’s Football Shirley Martin: “This year’s record female participation numbers are testament to the hard work and dedication of hundreds of coaches, regional staff and volunteers up and down the country.

“It’s amazing to see so many girls and women engaged with the game through the myriad bespoke programmes delivered through the Scottish FA, creating healthy habits and friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime.

“Girls’ and Women’s football in Scotland shows no sign of deviating from its upward trend, with pre-pandemic figures having increased by more than one third and the year-on-year increase in 2023 around ten percent.  Our ambition now is to continue to grow and get even more girls taking part in the game over the next 12 months and beyond.”