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PDMS sponsors local man in England's Walking Football team

News Published on 05 April 2024

PDMS recently sponsored Stephen Falconer who has been selected for England’s Walking Football Over 60’s team where he plays midfield.

Stephen has achieved an incredible amount already and we are proud to sponsor someone who is such a fantastic ambassador for the Isle of Man. But what is walking football and how does it differ from association football? We caught up with Stephen to find out more. 

What is walking football? 

First created in 2011, walking football is a unique small-sided game designed for men over 50 and women over 40 though it can be enjoyed by any age group. There are over 70,000 players and 1000 clubs, with most professional clubs having their own walking team. Lots of ex-pros also play such as Peter Davenport, who played for Manchester United and Nottingham Forest in the 1980s and now plays alongside Stephen for EWFC.

There are more than 50 differences to association football including the ball must not be kicked above head height; tackling must be done with no contact; and if your team accrues four cards (even four individual players), the opposing team is awarded a direct penalty. Teams are typically six-a-side, and it can be played both indoors and outdoors.

It’s a no-contact sport (most of the time) and there are very strict rules in terms of speed. Players are not allowed to run both on and off the ball, and this includes jogging. How quick you walk is up to you, but one foot must be in contact with the ground at all times and referees will let you know if they think you’re going too quickly.

There are variations between tournaments and countries, such as some games are six-a-side and it’s a three-touch pass. In Poland, they play with no goalkeepers and instead use smaller nets. The tournaments are also slightly different to association football. For example, this week Stephen is heading up to Manchester where he will play six 25-minute games played back-to-back with only five minutes between each game!

Why play walking football?

While it may seem tiring, there are many benefits to walking football which Stephen has experienced first-hand. It promotes health and fitness, whilst reducing stress on the body and allowing players to maintain an active lifestyle even with joint problems or limited mobility.

As well as physical benefits, it supports mental health too through socialising and a supportive community of like-minded people who can get together to escape the day to day. In short, it’s a sport that is easy for people to take part in regardless of age or fitness level, which is why it’s one of the fastest growing sports in the country.

Who are the England Walking Football Community? 

The England Walking Football Community or ‘EWFC’ is the nation’s walking football team. Formed in 2019, it has grown to over 90 players across the Men’s Over 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, and Women’s Over 40’s, 50’s and 55’s teams.

Since 2022, the team has been based at Redditch United’s Valley Stadium for training and home matches and players travel down from all over the UK, including Newcastle, Plymouth, Portsmouth – although Stephen thinks he has the record for furthest travelled coming from the Isle of Man!

While it is an official team, the emphasis is on ‘community’ as it is a group of like-minded people who all come together to play football. The EWFC is made up of male and female players, some of whom have played professionally or semi-professionally, as well as those who found their love of football in later life.

About Stephen Falconer 

For Stephen, he has been a lifelong fan of football and played sports all his life. A well-known face throughout Manx football, he was 59 when he went to Dublin for the European Walking Football Invitational. It was here that he was selected for trials for the EWFC Over 60s club. He has been training since September 2023 and was picked for the team in November. Playing for Governors Athletic – one of the four walking football teams on the Island – Stephen jumped at the chance to play the sport he loves while being a proud ambassador for the Isle of Man.

Unfortunately, the Isle of Man is not recognised as a nation but at a national level, Stephen can’t represent Isle of Man anyway as he plays for England and ‘nation-hopping’ is not allowed.

Since getting the call-up to represent England, Stephen has been busy travelling with the team and this month will be a busy time for him. He’s heading to Toryglen in Glasgow on 12th April for a tournament, then to Malta on 20th April where four teams will be playing as part of a PR event to coincide with the gaming conference to raise awareness of walking football. The team will then be travelling to Italy in May, France in June, and Poland in September.

All of this is self-funded which is why PDMS wanted to step in and support him so he can seize this opportunity with both hands. We are happy to support Stephen by providing funds for travel across to the UK for training and further afield for tournaments and competitions. We wish Stephen all the best with his upcoming matches, and we look forward to seeing where this journey takes him!

To find out more about the sport, visit the Walking Football website


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