The initiative says it will deliver an additional one million active hours for seniors over the next two years.
The Football Federation Australia (FFA) will be running the initiative through their organisation and is partnering with Active Ageing Australia and Sport Australia.
FFA Chief Executive Officer, David Gallop, says, “The time, location, venues and numbers on each team can be adapted depending on the needs of participants in each area.
“We also want to make this program affordable to encourage as many older Australians as possible to participate. It’s all about getting active, having fun and making new friends.”
Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians and Minister for Youth and Sport, Mr Richard Colbeck, says the Walking Football initiative is a great way to help and encourage older Australians to be active more often.
Walking Football is an adaption of soccer and played as a non-contact sport. It is also low impact due to the slower pace, so older players face a much lower risk of injury.
A player can play at any level of fitness and don’t have to have previous experience playing soccer.
Minister Colbeck says, “Walking Football is a game designed to expand participation among senior Australians who love their football or those who just want a fun new way to get active.
“Walking Football is a great version of the game that can be played by the whole family, irrespective of fitness levels or football experience. It’s non-contact and low-impact which makes it ideal for older Australians.
“The fun and social aspect is just as important as the physical health benefits. Pilot programs have shown it’s a great way to make new friends and reduce social isolation, with many of the participants meeting up outside game times.”
The initiative will soon have a full program rollout in New South Wales (NSW), Victoria, Queensland, Western Australian and Australian Capital Territory.
A pilot program will be tested in South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and in Northern NSW.
Around 110 Walking Football hubs will be established in the first 12 months with the intention to grow to 148 hubs in the second year.
The matches will be structured and the activity coordinators appointed in each hub will advise participants on training exercises they can do at home, including stretching and balance exercises.
The game is modified and has different rules compared to normal soccer, including no running, with participants always having one foot on the ground, the ball cannot be kicked above head height, no heading of the ball, and there are no referees because participation is prioritised over competition.
Minister Colbeck believes this initiative will encourage more than one million active hours across Australia from the matches and the at-home exercises.
Sports Australia is managing the Government’s $22.9 million Move It Aus - Better Ageing grants program, which is delivering innovative ways to help older Australians get more physically active.
Chair of Sports Australia, John Wylie, says, “Sport needs to be adaptable so it can be enjoyed for life, at any age, and I congratulate Football Federation Australia (FFA) and Active Ageing Australia for partnering on this initiative.
“Australia’s population is ageing and our grants program is helping Australians over 65 benefit from the health, wellbeing and social aspects sport provides.”
Walking Football has already been proven a success in the United Kingdom, with more than 800 clubs, which makes the FFA optimistic the modified sport will work in Australia.