In an effort to improve the technical ability and development of young footballers, the FA made the decision to create different guidelines for pitch, ball and goal sizes according to age groups.

While this has helped youngsters to develop the technical aspect of their game, it has created several sets of regulations – which can be a little confusing. As a general rule of thumb, things tend to get bigger as children get older, but here’s a detailed breakdown of what is required.

Pitch sizes

In terms of regulation pitch sizes, the FA’s guidelines begin at the under-7 and under-8 levels. The Football Association recommends that pitches for children in these age groups are 30 yards wide and 40 yards long. This is around a third of the size of an adult pitch, and encourages children to take care of the ball rather than run into space and play long balls. The FA also recommends that each team should consist of five players at this level.

Under-9s and under-10s should be playing on pitches that are 40 yards wide and 60 yards long. The FA recommends that these age groups should be playing 7-a-side football. The under-11 and under-12 age groups should be playing on pitches that are 50 yards wide and 80 yards long, and 9-a-side football is recommended at this level.

From the under-13 age group right through to under-18s, 11-a-side football is the FA’s recommendation. However, under-13s and under-14s are expected to play on pitches that are 55 yards wide and 90 yards long. Under-15s and under-16s should be playing on pitches of 60 yards by 100 yards. And under-17s and under-18s should play on full size, professional pitches which measure – on average – 70 yards by 110 yards.

Ball sizes

It is now widely believed that smaller balls help youngsters to develop the technical aspects of their game at an earlier age. This is why ball sizes now also increase as children get older. The FA recommends the following ball sizes according to the various age groups.

● Under-7s, under-8s and under-9s – Size 3 ball
● Under-10s to under-14s – Size 4 ball
● Under-15s and older – Size 5 ball (professional)

While these are simply recommendations, clubs, schools and local leagues that stick to the guidelines can help to create a consistent approach to player development in England.

Goal sizes

A few years ago, the FA discovered that too many youngsters were playing their football with full size goals. This did little to develop shooting skills, as small children playing in goal were lost in goals of 8 feet by 24 feet. The FA published the following guidelines for goals sizes as a result.

● Under-7s to under-10s – 6 feet by 12 feet
● Under-11s and under-12s – 7 feet by 16 feet
● Under 13s and under-14s – 7 feet by 21 feet
● Under-15s and older – 8 feet by 24 feet (professional)

Sadly, there have been a number of injuries – and a death – in recent years as the result of old or badly installed goal posts. In 2008, one man was awarded more than £40,000 in damages when a poorly fitted goalpost fell on him – causing severe injuries to his mouth and teeth.

According to ROSPA, 50% of five-a-side goals in the UK failed stability tests, and 22% of the junior goals tested were considered unsafe. These are shocking statistics which demonstrate that much more needs to be done to improve the quality of goalposts up and down the country.

Councils, schools and local leagues using wooden goalposts, or those with metal net hooks, are in breach of FA rules. Yet there are believed to be hundreds still being used today.

Ensuring that youngsters are playing football according to the FA’s recommended sizes and dimensions is crucial to the development of young footballing talent in England. With significant investment from the FA, local authorities and central government, our children will be able to develop their skills in a safe environment that is conducive to learning.

Author Bio

Malcolm Cox is a journalist and professional copywriter with a love of all things football. An avid Newcastle United fan, Malcolm utilises his love of the game to create informative and engaging blog posts for UK football goal retailer The Soccer Store.