Walking football is a variant of association football that is aimed at keeping people aged over 50 participating in a mild form of exercise and for those previously playing the traditional game. The sport can be played both indoors and outdoors. Walking football was devised as a competitive sport pre-1930, but Steve Bloomer of England football fame refereed the first reported fixture in 1932 between Derby and Crewe Railway Veterans. Coverage of a BBC Sports News walking football session in Bury in 2012 led to several other clubs taking up this version of the game.
The Governing Body of walking football in England is The FA (Football Association) based at Saint George's Park. Other home nations, such as Wales and Scotland, have their own governing bodies. An International governing body was established to help promote and coordinate international matches between nations. This body is the International Walking Football Federation, based in Sutton Coldfield, England. They held the first walking football World Cup at Leyton Orient in 2019. Through the creation of the bespoke website Walking Football United, now thousands of teams and session have been developed all over the UK, with players now featuring in specific age categories - over 50s, over 60, and over 70s. The sport has also proved popular with women and is played from ages over 40 years.
Though based on association football, the laws of the game established by the FA, from standard football, with the main difference being that if a player runs anywhere on the pitch they concede a free kick to the other side. This restriction, together with a ban on slide tackles, is aimed both at avoiding injuries and facilitating the playing of the sport by those who are physically disadvantaged. The manner in which the sport is played promotes cardiovascular fitness whilst producing the least stress on the body. It also helps participants maintain an active lifestyle. In walking football the game has the ball not permitted to exceed head height. Different footballs are used in the indoor and the outdoor variations of the sport. When played indoors, a size 4 futsal ball is the preferred option. Outdoor games involve a traditional size 5 football. The size of the pitch can vary to suit different locations. The length should be from 20 to 40 yards and the width between 15 and 30 yards.
The sport came to wider public attention in July 2014, when Barclays Bank aired a television advertisement featuring walking football to promote their services. Two further Barclays promotional short films featuring famous footballers playing the walking format had 5.5 million views worldwide, sparking further interest in the game.
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