The Wonderful World of Walking Football
So What Is Walking Football?
Walking Football in Cornwall
If You're Going To Do It, Do It Right
A Short History of Walking Football
From the days of long shorts and dodgy moustaches to the reintroduction of our fantastic game in 2011, there doesn’t seem to be a definitively accepted history of walking football – so we sent our intrepid reporter out on a mission to see what he could discover…
A little known fact about walking football is that the first-ever game took place all the way back in May 1932, between a team of Derby Railway and Crewe Railway veterans at the Baseball Ground, home to the Rams until 1997. The spectator admission fees, three pence for standing or sixpence for seats, were donated to charitable causes – and more than 1,500 turned up.
The match finished 1-1 with Steve Bloomer, Derby County’s all time leading scorer playing the role of referee at the age of 58. All of the players on the pitch were over 65 years old and the Derby Telegraph reported on the match by writing:Bald heads, white moustaches and red faces were the order of the day, while one man played in spectacles. The combined age of the Derby team was 741 and of Crewe 733.
This one off game was repeated annually until 1936, but then walking football vanished until an initiative by the Chesterfield FC Community Trust in 2011 saw the creation of the Chesterfield Senior Spireites – reviving the game and marking the birth of walking football as we know it.
The initial aim was to help over 50s in the local area get back in touch with the sport they love, yet in the process they managed to create something so much bigger.
The initiative, which came long before national festivals and an official FA rulebook, was part of the local Walk for Health programme and was only ever intended as a casual kick about for local players. The first matches were three a side with no goalkeepers. There were no rules as such, due to the relaxed nature of the game – just don’t run and have plenty of fun.
However the sport soon took off. Very quickly Chesterfield Senior Spireites saw their numbers grow, and they now have 40 players regularly attending sessions. In 2015 a satellite club, Hasland Walking Football Club, who run separate sessions once per week, joined them, helping to bolster numbers along the way.
This followed on from the big marketing push that walking football needed to go national. An advertising campaign from Barclays Bank featuring a bloke called Roy extolled the virtues of our wonderful game. This was quickly followed by thousands of enquiries from players looking to get their footballing fix, and as a result a proliferation in teams.
For many over 50s, it was the first chance to get out on the pitch again in decades. It presented an opportunity to create new social circles and created a level playing field for all, whether 18 or 80.
The Barclays campaign reached millions and saw the creation of the first walking football teams from Premier League clubs. Manchester City, at the time having just completed their sparkling new training centre next to the Etihad Stadium, the first in England’s top flight. The Scottish Premier League’s Glasgow Rangers were not far behind.
All of which brings us up to where we are today, with regular tournaments and festivals and thousands of players competing not just in the UK, but around the globe.