"Did you think it was all over? It isn't now. Get back playing the beautiful game. Walking Football - the low impact, slow paced version of football, where the only difference is that you cannot run. Come and give it a go if you're over 50 and want to start playing again."
Not an untypical ad to draw in participants for a new innovative slant on regular football that aims to get people over the age of fifty playing sport again in a gentle, relatively injury-free, less competetive vane.
Without doubt it's a great concept, and in itself hugely enjoyable, especially for those that used to play at a decent level in their younger days. That said, there are younger out there that don't have days playing football. John Brown, 28, had to give up playing semi-pro football through recurrent knee ligamnet damage. Rob Smith, 33, is slightly overweight, can't do twenty-five minutes let alone ninety, but loves his football. Keith Jones at 42 is a bit too slow for 5-a-side now and perhaps can't risk an injury that may hinder from his self-employed status. Dave King at 48 has minor heart issues that now mitigate his keen keep fit regime and numerous sporting interests.
All of these ficticious characters have one thing in common. Having all been passionate about, and played football - there is nowhere for them to continue or restart their football enjoyment without over-exertion, fatigue/fitness issues, being over-run by younger players, fear of injury, concerns of being a little too slow these days. Nowhere at least until they all turn fifty that is. Once they do in fact become 'golden' in years, they can re-invigorate their passion, flaunt their dormant flare, deftly display their dribbles, satiate their soccer hunger.
Walking Football gives them all of that and more. Another decade or two of being back in the game. Fifty not out - how's that!
The vast majority of venues up and down the country - with more springing up week by week - offer Walking Football for the over 50's, with some stipulating 55 plus.
It's not all doom and bust though. A small number of venues encourage open sessions for any age participants. One such venue in Kent actively encourages any adult age and ability to participate in their sessions. With a register of fifty having tried the game at some stage since February of this year, the majority of them age around the thirty year mark.
Session organiser Steve Rich remarked: "I think it's healthy to open the game up to all ages. Fathers can play with sons, and healthy grand-parents can knock it about with two generations of family members. How good is that?"
"Also, as a keen participant myself, at 53, there really is no huge advantage someone at twenty-five years younger has over me. Not at walking pace. Besides, they're usually too busy showboating to be of any real concern!"
"Not enough clubs encourage the under 50's to join up. It's a crying shame. There's a huge void there that needs filling. Far too many ex-players left in the wilderness until they hit fifty - and by then have probably lost their appetite for it. I think the organisations delivering the game need to look into the issue if they want to see more players back in the game and redress the balance of players leaving the game and clubs continuing to disband."
Without these organising bodies taking the initiative, it must therefore lie with the individual venues to take up the opportunity and provide Walking Football to anyone who has a mind to try it. There is a huge gap of potential out there that needs to be tapped into.
The last word with Steve Rich: "I've looked into the numbers and it appears a lot of places struggle to get enough interest let alone maintain enough participants. Opening up the age bracket would generate a healthy return on numbers, and provide a healthy number of generations return."
Your comments would be appreciated............