A SCHOOL football project, aimed at giving all youngsters a sporting chance, is a big success.
Moray Council Sports Development and Active Schools teams, along with the Scottish Football Association (SFA), introduced a primary schools football programme to the area last September.
Weekly ‘football festivals’ take place on Saturday mornings during term-time at Coulardbank Playing Fields in Lossiemouth, attracting a large number of participants and supporters.
Teams are rotated across eight pitches for the duration of each festival playing day.
Super 5s play every second Saturday, alternating with Soccer 7s.
The programme replaced the former Moray schools football league format and is trophy free, encouraging pupils from smaller schools to merge into teams and take part in matches.
Anderson’s Primary has one P4/5 (‘Super 5s’) team and one P6/7 (‘Soccer 7s’) team.
Applegrove has three Super 5s teams and two Soccer 7s teams.
New Applegrove coach, Paul Lynch, confirmed his players have got on well at the events so far.
He said: “The new system is inclusive of all children, regardless of ability, whereas the previous method allowed teams/schools to hand-pick their best players.
“When I first started, I told the school that it was open for every child, and if they wanted to play football, they were in the team so initially I had 40 children turn up for training!
“The more playing sports, getting fit and enjoying themselves, the better.”
SFA regional manager Graeme Sutherland is inviting more local schools and pupils take part.
He explained: “The set-up offers a chance for all primary-aged children to play football regularly.
“Smaller schools such as Dyke, Logie and Dallas might find it more difficult to source enough players for their own teams but any individuals who turn up will be put into teams on the day.”
Since the changes were put in place, there has been a 50 per cent increase in the total number of teams entering across Moray. This will increase when a four-a-side section for P1-3s is introduced in April, offering a complete SFA player pathway for primary school players.
Active Schools coordinator Paul Rogan confirmed Kinloss and Pilmuir Primaries plan to get involved in the festivals in future.
He said: “The set-up is a massive step in the right direction. The old system wasn’t supported by the SFA and there was no player pathway. Everything comes under the SFA and Moray Council umbrella now and all coaches are PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups scheme) approved. Prospective coaches attend first aid, child-protection and early football touches courses.”
Organisers are looking for more volunteers to allow schools to take on new teams.
Training and support will be provided for anyone interested. Email MorayPrimaryFootball@moray.gov.uk for more information.