In recent years we’ve seen a decline in the numbers of participants in traditional 11-a-side adults football on a Saturday and Sunday. With people’s lives becoming increasingly busy, many simply don’t have the time to sacrifice a large chunk of their weekends to getting wet and muddy in a field all in the name of the beautiful game. Instead, more and more are opting for the more convenient forms of the game such as midweek five-a-side. The advantages being shorter games, midweek fixtures, fewer players to organise and being able to play at the same location every week.

This is an issue which is all too familiar to Cheshire FA. Over the last 12 months alone they have lost a worrying 47 11-a-side teams, with 2 Sunday leagues folding as a result. Not wanting to lose the traditional form of the game completely, in 2016 Cheshire FA took positive action and started their first midweek “Elevens” league. The new format is designed to form a hybrid between the purism of playing the 11-a-side game with the convenience of 5-a-side.

elevens logo

Advantages of ‘Elevens’…

  • One match every 2 weeks, so no need to commit to playing every week.
  • No rained off matches or muddy pitches.
  • Pre-arranged referees.
  • Shorter 60 minute matches.
  • Minimal admin/paper work, with affiliation and insurance organised through the league.
  • Unlimited squad size with rolling substitutions.
  • Sign new players on the day.
  • Discipline managed by Cheshire FA to ensure a safe and enjoyable environment.
  • Each league has its very own league co-ordinator.

Who can play Elevens?

  • All ages and abilities from 16 to vets.
  • Clubs who would like to use competitive football as training.
  • Teams that have previously folded but are looking to re-establish themselves.
  • Clubs who are looking to develop a new team but don’t have enough players to commit to weekend football.
  • Clubs looking to recruit new players/teams.
  • Clubs who have a surplus of players and are looking to give them some game time.
  • Coaches and parents of junior football teams.
  • Individuals who are no longer able to play weekend football due to work/family commitments.

The leagues have proved incredibly popular in Cheshire. Having started with a single division of 8 teams, last season they had 24 teams split across 3 divisions. This season they are aiming for even more teams to get involved. They are hoping to have 6 divisions catering for 46 teams, with 39 already signed up.

What they’re saying…

“The Elevens Leagues was developed in order to provide a high quality alternative for those who might not be able to commit to playing at weekends due to various commitments. We recognised the demand to continue playing the traditional 11v11 format but the offer needed to be modernised and relevant to this group of players. Since the launch, Elevens has grown over 40 brand new teams in the last 3 seasons with leagues in Chester, Ellesmere Port, Warrington, Wirral and Wythenshawe and we’re always looking to branch out to new areas. Minimal admin, 60 minute matches and a great social atmosphere, the new way to play 11v11 football.” Ryan Cotterill, Football Development Officer at Cheshire FA.

“This will be the 3rd year entering the Flexi 11’s. It’s great to see people recognising that certain aspects of the game need to change in order to appeal to the wider audience. I personally have grown up around football and have always played somewhere, but as I started to have my own family I was torn over the weekends taking one child to football and another to ballet and so on. I had to stop playing, it was as simple as that, but the Flexi football has given me and other members of the team the chance to get back into the game without the hassle and stress with time, equipment, pitch fees, and home and away days stresses. It’s a brilliant way to play the game and keep that football fire burning.” Dan Fortune, Elevens league player.

If you’re based in Cheshire and want to get involved then visit the Cheshire FA site or check them out on Facebook. Not based in Cheshire? More and more county FA’s are launching this format of the game, so please get in touch and find out if there is an Elevens league near you.