3 young players at a 3v3 football festival

Recognition For 3v3 Pitchside Football Partnership

Lincolnshire FA’s partnership with Pitchside Football was submitted for a County FA Recognition Award

Lincolnshire FA's partnership with Pitchside Football to deliver 3v3 festivals have been nominated in the Partnership category of the 2023 County FA Recognition Awards. 

Pitchside Football provides a wide range of events for grassroots teams along such as festivals, tournaments and new for 2023 birthday packages, corporate events and more.

But what did the partnership actually look like? And how was it delivered?

The Need

With children having more options of how to spend their time than ever before, their engagement with sports must now compete with a variety of influences and distractions. 

Local discipline data highlights 35 misconduct cases occurred across mini-soccer football across the 2022/23 season, which will have a detrimental impact on players and threaten long-term participation. Active Lincolnshire’s ‘Children & Young People – Lincolnshire Insight Pack’ indicated only 55% of children who regularly exercise strongly agree that they enjoy taking part in sport and physical activity. We want children & young people to become immersed in the world of football at a young age. We aim to do this by creating safe football environments, in which young people can lose themselves in a world of fun & enjoyment, experiencing all of the positive things everything football has to offer with their teammates. 

An insight report commissioned by Sport England indicated that by building positive attitudes towards sport and physical activity in children from a young age, they are more likely to feel more motivated, confident and able to get active throughout their life. Essentially, those positive experiences at the beginning of their sporting journey are crucial. In 2020/21, there were 88 U7 teams in Lincolnshire, so early years activity had not returned to pre-covid levels. The proportion of children achieving the recommended levels of physical activity differed across school year groups, with those in year 1 to 2 more likely to be active (51.8%) than those in year 3 to 6 (42.3%) [the mini-soccer years].

This report aligns to Lincolnshire FAs belief that young people should be able to experience diverse formats which encourage them to think, problem-solve, and develop those skills which lead to physical literacy, but are equally as vital as personal qualities in life. People first, players second. 

The Objective

Despite the natural progression to bigger pitches, formats & goals, a players experience of football between U7 & U18 is pretty consistent in terms of the game and its rules, which could be a contributing factor to seeing a local drop-off towards U14. I believe that at a young age, we should create situations that prompt and guide a child’s curiosity, by offering innovative and diverse experiences through football and this is what the project set out to achieve.  

Based on the above, our objectives were to deliver alternative 3v3 festivals inside of inflatable pitches to capture the imagination of young players, engaging them through a varied football experience, as well as increasing the number of problem solving situations and decision making opportunities they have per match. Our aim was to increase the number of players and teams across Lincolnshire who had the opportunity to play 3v3 football.

Lincolnshire FA felt this was particularly important for new U7 teams as they transition from training to fixtures, to ensure their first experience of playing against other teams was fun & enjoyable leading to regular & repeat activity, but to also increase the number of technical interactions per game, allowing all players to feel involved. We knew that coaches and parents may have reservations about trialling something new, so it was important we outlined how the smaller format had fundamental principles underpinning player development which could be easily transferred into the more traditional formats of the game.

The Action
Through local intelligence, we were aware that Lincolnshire FAs League of the Year, Crofts Estate Agents Youth Football League, had adopted 3v3 football as part of their league offering, so we brokered a relationship with the provider, Pitchside Football. Pitchside Football are the owners of the equipment, including the inflatable pitches, and are highly rated providers of innovative and local football festivals & tournaments.
Through a meeting with Pitchside Football, we were quickly able to establish shared organisational values & objectives and discussed how collaborative working could be mutually beneficial. Creative rules such as the players having to touch their own goal after scoring, to penalty kicks from the halfway line, coincided with our vision to create those fun settings where players are to be continuously engaged.   
The benefit of the project is enabling a greater number of children and young people to try an alternative version of football. The 3v3 festivals were the first of their kind in Lincolnshire, and as a County FA wanting to set positive trends, it was important to work alongside Pitchside Football to spearhead the project. 
Pitchside Football have a number of other opportunities which they offer through the company, and our partnership has enabled us to shine a light on them as an organisation and through our position as the governing body for football in Lincolnshire, we’ve tried to increase their local exposure. 
Both parties created a one year action plan to introduce 3v3 football in Lincolnshire, with a long-term plan to embed it. As a starting point, we needed to link in with our local grassroots football network to source suitable host clubs in key areas of the county. We also looked at how we could use the 3v3 events as a vehicle for host clubs to connect with their local community by inviting other businesses to the event.

The Result

In the space of the last year, our partnership with Pitchside Football has led to the delivery of four 3v3 festivals across three different parts of Lincolnshire, including Lincoln, North Lincolnshire & North East Lincolnshire. Lincolnshire FA and Pitchside have worked together to source suitable host clubs, using England Accreditation status and discipline records as a way to filter through those interested.

Across the four festivals, we have engaged with 109 mini-soccer or youth teams, and roughly 450 players. Inclusivity is a shared valued across both organisations, and we have allowed all female teams the opportunity to play an age group down. To ensure players, coaches and spectators approach the festivals in a way which contributes towards a positive environment, no fixture results are recorded and as such, no festival winners are declared. Instead, each player leaves the festival with a medal around their neck and a smile on their face. RESPECT ropes & ‘A’ boards also encourage a positive atmosphere.

We have utilised the mass participation style of event to capture the voice of children & young people, asking about their experiences of football and what they would change. We have then gathered this information and forwarded it onto the league chair for their considerations. We have also appointed young match officials to the events in order to gain them experience in a fun, safe & enjoyable setting.   

The number of affiliated U7 teams increased by 23 last season, and the percentage of teams transitioning across mini soccer age groups was also higher. The partnership has also led to Pitchside Football having had increased visibility, resulting in additional interest and bookings to use their service & equipment.  

Jake Park, Football Development Manager at Lincolnshire FA, said: "The partnership work Lincolnshire FA have carried out with Pitchside Football is incredibly valuable to us. Both organisations have shared values, goals & objectives which makes working alongside one another a really simple and enjoyable process. It’s important for us to lead the way when it comes to offering children and young people the opportunity to trial innovative & diverse formats of football, and this partnership allows us to be at the forefront of that. I think of the most exciting aspects of the partnership is that we’re only just getting started and we are determined to further promote the excellent work and opportunities which Pitchside Football provide in Lincolnshire!"




There’s various benefits attached to this exciting format, which are detailed within this 3v3 best practice booklet.

You can find out more about Pitchside Football here

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