June 26th 2020
Oliver Dowden and Nigel Huddleston Challenged: 11 a Side or 6 a side - What's The Difference?

Oliver Dowden and Nigel Huddleston are amongst the Government Ministers who find themselves under the spotlight after a new study highlighted the health differences between those that play 6 a side and 11 a side football.

Culture Secretary Dowden addressed the nation at the now discontinued Daily Briefing on the 17th June – the day that the Premier League’s Project Restart kicked off – and signalled that community football could follow. This didn’t happen on Tuesday when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a raft of changes to effectively end most of lockdown.

Now Dowden, and Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston (below) are amongst the politicians who stand accused of harming the health of the nation, after a new study by Leisure Leagues, the UK’s largest provider of small sided football, has highlighted the startling difference between players in 6 a-side leagues, and those playing 11 a-side football.

Based on interviews with a large cross section of Leisure Leagues 500,000 database, and 11 a-side players, the results show that the guidance issued by the Football Foundation in July 2019 was a timely reminder for the need for facilities to prioritise 6 a-side leagues in terms of booking space.

The study showed that 84% of players playing in a 6 aside league were previously inactive, did no other forms of exercise, with 48% classed as mildly obese.

In contrast, 94% of 11 a-side players had engaged in physical activity before or during their 11 a-side football experience, with 38% regularly attending a gym, and 59% participating in other sports such as cricket, rugby, running or swimming.

Leisure Leagues spokesman Andy Thorley commented: “There has been a tendency for the FA to encourage facilities to give up their best slots for FA types of football. The Government now needs to have a complete rethink about this as it is clear, if we really want to get inactive or overweight people into physical exercise, then we must be prioritising small sided leagues at facilities everywhere”.

“It is simply not sensible, for example, to have a two hour slot on an astroturf pitch, on a Monday evening given to a small number of already fit people, when that same two hour slot could be used by a small sided leagues organiser in attracting hundreds of people who desperately need to be to be given regular physical exercise”.

Leisure Leagues also commented how the Government currently turns a blind eye to the FA instructing facilities to give all their best slots over to FA teams, often at the expense of small sided leagues.

Mr Thorley said: “It simply cannot be right that we are encouraging already active young people to engage in more activity, whilst the very people we should be trying to get active, those that currently do nothing in the way of exercise, we are sidelining and not allowing them a chance”.

In a separate study last year Leisure Leagues found that 89% of males between the age of 16 and 35, who considered themselves not sporty or athletic or fit, would have considered playing in a local 6 a-side league as the only way of engaging in exercise.

Mr Thorley continued: “11 a-side football is for those people who are already very fit. Not only that, it can be quite expensive to play. Football boots, shinpads and FA fees can be costly. In contrast, 5 a-side 6 a-side leagues are cheap for the user, you don’t need expensive football boots, shinpads or kit, and you can just turn up and play. Not only that, it is much easier for a previously inactive person to play a game of football for 30 minutes, as opposed to 90 minutes. The whole philosophy and strategy the Government has regarding football at facilities in the UK needs to fundamentally change if we are serious about getting our nation fit again”.

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