Study by Children’s Parliament shows positive impact football has on children’s wellbeing

New research from the Children’s Parliament shows the positive benefits children and young people experience from participating in football, both in terms of physical fitness and mental wellbeing.

The study, Getting it Right for Every Child in Scottish Football – Young Players Have Their Say, was designed using a children's rights approach to provide a safe space for children and young people to share their views and experiences about participating in the national game, empowering them to construct their own narrative on their experiences within football.

The data from the study, which was commissioned by the Scottish FA, was compiled through a combination of more than 100 in-person conversations with children and young people aged between eight and 18 years old at clubs across Scotland that the researchers conducted through creative workshops, alongside a national survey that received more than 1500 responses from children and young people across Scotland.  

Some of the key results of the study include:

  • 94 percent of respondents have fun when they play football.
  • 96 percent feel safe when playing football.
  • 90 percent believe football makes them feel better about themselves, improves their overall health, and builds friendships.
  • 94 percent feel looked after by their club when they are training or playing football
  • 80 percent of those surveyed can identify a trusted adult with whom to share worries or problems. 

The survey also identified areas in which young people indicated concerns, including access to facilities and equipment, negative behaviours from adults on the touchline such as pressure to win, concerns about equality, and age categorisation.

Scottish FA Chief Executive Ian Maxwell: “Ensuring that Scottish football is a safe, welcome and nurturing environment for all children and young people is a continuing goal for everyone at the Scottish FA and it is heartening to see so many children speak so positively on the benefits that participation in our wonderful game brings.

“It is incumbent upon everyone who helps deliver football across Scotland to ensure that children can enjoy the game in a safe and nurturing environment and everyone – whether they be coaches, volunteers, or parents watching from the sidelines – has a responsibility to ensure that children are allowed to enjoy the game without pressure or being exposed to any sort of negative behaviours.

“While we were already cognisant of many of the challenges that this research indicates exist, this study will be a vital tool in helping to shape our approach to delivering football across the country and ensuring that anyone who wants to participate in the game has the opportunity to do so.”

Scottish FA Head of Wellbeing and Protection Alan Stewart: “This piece of research is a vital component of our five-year child wellbeing strategy, Getting It Right for Every Child in Scottish Football, and it is pleasing to see the overwhelmingly positive experiences that young people have when participating in football.

“The study has provided invaluable insight into how children perceive their participation in football that has implications and learnings for not only child wellbeing, but also for how Scottish football as a whole caters for the diverse spectrum of young participants across the nation.

“While the research has highlighted that children recognise the wider benefits football can offer, it also shows that there is still room for improvement. Using the data we have captured through this research, we look forward to working with partners from across all sectors to continue delivering real and sustainable change for children and young people so that football is safe and enjoyable for all.”