This article looks at the English Schools Football Association (ESFA), which organises a range of football games and competitions for primary and secondary schools in partnership with the FA

The English Schools Football Association (ESFA) is the governing body that organises schools football throughout the country, which it does in partnership with the FA. The ESFA aims to provide enjoyable soccer experiences for both primary and secondary school children by offering competitions ranging from mini-soccer for under-11 footballers through to the 11-a-side game for older pupils from Year 7 upwards. Throughout the country, county and district associations affiliated to the ESFA also offer a full programme of competitions and festivals for their schools. There is a thriving programme of schools soccer in all 44 of the English counties and in its 400+ district associations.


It is more appropriate for younger pupils to play smaller-sided games and as a consequence the ESFA arranges mini-soccer festivals, which are supported and arranged throughout the country. These begin in the autumn term and culminate with national finals the following summer, which usually take place at a quality venue (Lilleshall National Sports Centre and Keele University have been used in the past) as close to the centre of the country as is practical. This season, however, there is the most fantastic bonus for the schools in these competitions – the national finals are being played on the pitch at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 26 April 2008.

Any primary school in England can enter:

  • a girls-only seven-a-side tournament
  • a boys-only seven-a-side tournament
  • a mixed boys’ and girls’ seven-a-side competition for small schools (less than 100 pupils in Key Stage 2)
  • a district team seven-a-side competition for towns and cities/areas of counties.

All the above competitions lead to county, regional and then the Wembley national finals. Once children move from primary to secondary school, the ESFA arranges a series of under-12 indoor five-a-side festivals around the country, culminating in a national finals day for the eight boys’ and girls’ area champions. Last season these took place at the David Beckham Academy in Greenwich, south-east London and were greatly enjoyed by all the participants.

National competitions

As far as ESFA national competitions are concerned, 11-a-side football for boys and girls does not begin in earnest until the under-13 (Year 8) age level. Coca-Cola currently sponsors the ESFA Minute Maid Schools Under-13 Cups for both girls and boys. Entry is initially via competitions in each of the 44 ESFA counties, with the county champions progressing on to regional and then national rounds.

he National Finals have been played at some prestigious grounds, including Anfield, Stamford Bridge and Villa Park. This season the national finals are on Friday 16 May 2008 at the impressive new home of Coventry City, the Ricoh Arena. The draw for the Regional Rounds was recently made by the secretary of state for children, schools and families, Ed Balls MP, assisted by the FA’s director of football development, Sir Trevor Brooking.

Details of the ESFA nationwide inter-schools competitions for all secondary age schoolchildren can be accessed via the ESFA website ( Entry forms can be downloaded and you can follow a school’s progress in the results section on a round-by-round basis.

For the duration of the ESFA’s 100+ years of history, there has been an inter-district under-15 (Year 10) competition. The current holders are the Worksop and Retford district association who lifted this famous old trophy at AFC Bournemouth’s ground after defeating Poole and East Dorset.

Another very popular competition is for Year 11 pupils in the Royal Air Force Under-16 Schools’ Cup competitions. Both girls’ and boys’ teams initially enter via county cup competitions, which take place in the autumn term with county champions and some runners-up progressing to the national part of the event in the spring term. The national finals are always played on Premier League grounds. This season is no exception. The ESFA has been lucky to have reached agreement with Manchester City Football Club to stage the two finals there on Monday 28 April 2008. These will be the last matches on the pitch before the club hosts the UEFA Cup Final on Wednesday 14 May 2008.

At under-16 level the ESFA also organises inter-county competitions for both girls’ and boys’ teams but at under-18 sixth-form level there is currently only a boys’ inter county competition, plus another two separate boys’ competitions – one for schools and the other for colleges. Last season, a new girls-only under-18 competition was introduced and proved highly popular.

In summary, these are the 11-a-side competitions open to all England’s Secondary Schools:

  • Under-12 National Cup Boys – Enter via ESFA website or ESFA office
  • Under-13 National Cup Boys – Enter via your local county association
  • Under-13 National Cup Girls – Enter via your local county association
  • Under-14 National Cup Boys – Enter via ESFA website or ESFA office
  • Under-15 National Cup Boys – Enter via ESFA website or ESFA office
  • Under-15 National Cup Girls – Enter via ESFA website or ESFA office
  • Under-16 National Cup Boys – Enter via your local county association
  • Under-16 National Cup Girls – Enter via your local county association
  • Under-18 National Cup Boys (Schools) – Enter via ESFA website or ESFA office
  • Under-18 National Cup Boys (Colleges) – Enter via ESFA website or ESFA office
  • Under-18 National Cup Girls – Enter via ESFA website or ESFA office.

LIST OF GROUNDS USED FOR ESFA FINALS 2003-2004-2005-2006-2007

  • AFC Bournemouth
  • Arsenal
  • Aston Villa
  • Barnsley
  • Birmingham City
  • Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre
  • Blackburn Rovers
  • Bolton Wanderers
  • Boston United
  • Bristol City
  • Bury
  • Burnley
  • Cambridge United
  • Carlisle United
  • Charlton Athletic
  • Chelsea
  • Cheltenham Town
  • Chesterfield
  • Cirencester Town
  • Coventry City
  • Crystal Palace
  • Darlington
  • Doncaster Rovers
  • Durham City
  • Everton
  • Exeter City
  • Leicester City
  • Leyton Orient
  • Lilleshall National Sports Centre
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester City
  • Marine
  • Middlesbrough
  • Northampton Town
  • Northwich Victoria
  • Notts County
  • Plymouth Argyle
  • Portsmouth
  • Preston North End
  • Reading
  • Rotherham United
  • Rushden & Diamonds
  • Shrewsbury Town
  • Southampton
  • Stoke City
  • Swansea City
  • Telford United
  • University of Keele
  • Watford
  • West Bromwich Albion
  • West Ham United
  • Witton Albion
  • Wolverhampton Wanderers
  • Worksop Town
  • Wycombe Wanderers
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