4v4 Mini-Leagues

No coaches, no coaching, no substitutes

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How it works

Each team has four players. If a player can't play for any reason, then that team can either find a friend to play instead, or play with just three players (3v4).

All adults will adhere to the Code of Conduct for the event. There will be no coaches or coaching from parents or spectators.

There will be no team-kits. If Team Organisers want to arrange for their team to wear the same colour, they can. Or there will be bibs available if the children want them.

Our Mini-Leagues last for just three or four weeks, so you can enjoy being part of a team without having to commit to the usual 8-month-long football season. All our Mini-League games are held at the same local venue so you don't need to spend hours in a weekend traffic jam searching for a distant away game venue. (Children's football shouldn't be about traffic jams or getting frozen on icey fields).


The first-ever Ministry of Football 4v4 Summer Mini-League (outdoors) took place in July 2011. 22 teams took part, and a total of over 100 children played and enjoyed mini-football in the sunshine.

The first-ever Indoor Mini-League took place in November 2011, with 12 teams competing across two divisions. Congratulations to Rock United and Lesterpool FC on winning their divisions. 16 teams took part in the Indoor Mini-Leagues in 2012, with 8 teams in each division.

Objective and philosophy

To promote children's football for children by children; to help in the development of creative, confident, skilful footballers; and to enhance joy through play. The Mini-Leagues are a celebration of our values of inclusion, enjoyment, creativity and learning. We will seek parental involvement and support from those who believe in the same values.


Mark (07772 716 87607772 716 876 ) at Ministry of Football. Contact page. 

Typical format

Each team will play two 18-minute games each Saturday.

The first game on the first Saturday will be a "grading game" for all teams, where we can assess the level of each team in the league, and get the children used to the rules and format. The second game on the first Saturday, and all games on future Saturdays will be league games, with league tables updated each week.

Each team will need a Team Organiser. It is the Team Organiser's job to enrol the team of 4 players, and they can do this by emailing MoF with the children's names. It is also the task of the Team Organiser to make sure all the players on their team are at the venue on time and ready to play. If a player cannot make it, the Team Organiser can organise someone else to play in their place.

Game rules: Each team will have 4 players, with no substitutes being allowed.  MoF will provide a referee for each game. There will be two games going on in the hall at the same time, and each game will be played within set boundaries (i.e no rebounding the ball off the wall).

No coaches or coaching: The venue at Fortismere School has a spectator area adjacent to the hall. Parents and spectators are welcome to watch and enjoy the game from this area. No adults will be allowed into the hall except Ministry of Football coaches and referees.

No Prizes or Prize-Giving

Over the past three Mini-Leagues the most consistent area for negative feedback has been prizes and prize-giving. Parents have very different views about this, but it seems that most do not like the fact that the prize-giving only celebrates the winning teams. We have reflected on this, and in-line with our own values, we have decided to run Mini-League events without any prizes or prize-giving.

We believe that children should play football for their own fulfillment and joy rather than in pursuit of a medal or trophy. All the FA research suggests that the main reason children come to football is to play football with their friends. In other words, the football itself is the prize. With no prizes or prize-giving, we will be able to reduce the price of the event. [We will still keep results and update the league tables after each week, so the children can still see how they're doing, and can make their own decision as to how important the league table is for them].

Paul Cooper's superb initiative 'Give us Back Our Game' has been a key inspiration behind the development of our 4v4 Mini-League programme.

Parent and child feedback from previous Mini-Leagues:

  • "Relaxed format for children, lots of playing time and touches of the ball. Teams were fair, pitch size was good. Games were full of action. "
  • "It is the perfect arena for the children to a) show off the skills they have learned and put them into practice b) have their first taste of competitive football, in a "safe" environment c) have fun."
  • "The games were well organized, with children in charge of the game. I personally think it was a joy to watch children's enthusiasm."
  • "I thought it was a great experience for my son, it was his first tournament. Great for the boys to be able to play competitively for the very first time, I felt he really got so much from it. His team both won & lost and it was v good for him to be able to experience both. He learned a lot about playing as a team as well."
  • "Extremely efficient organisation & plenty of opportunity for all children to play."
  • "It's exactly what you say you want it to be - no coaching, no subs, small goals, lots of fun."
  • "We both like that the children are in control of how they play - not parents or managers."
  • "Absolutely loved the experience. Really enjoyed playing as a regular team and experiencing so much action! Managed to see positives even when losing! Very impressed."
  • "Leaving the kids to just get on with playing football, giving them the independence to make all their own decisions. He enjoyed the competitiveness of the matches, and the whole mini league format."
  • "Fun, stress free competition. Liked chance of winning prizes. Liked freedom to play out of positions."
  • "Very well organised. My son loved the adrenaline of the match!"
  • "Smaller teams meant more play for each player. Great idea to help get them thinking they should self discipline than rely on someone else."
  • "Children playing competitive football but in small groups with focus on fun and using their skills."
  • "It was a great opportunity for the boys to play a good number of games in a nice, friendly but competitive environment."
  • "I like the idea that children can play their own game with no ref or coaches shouting at the sidelines."
  • "It was good to see the enthusiasm in the children and it was interesting to see Dilan having to play in an unconfined environment with a different form of pitch."
  • "Organisation information very clear and helpful and children seemed to enjoy themselves."
  • "Small sided games plus the fact that we didn't use subs was a great idea so the children had more of an opportunity to get very much involved!"
  • "No pressure put on them, no shouting, found it fast and fun!"
  • "She says that she liked coaching her own game and the team work. I liked the fact that it is local to where we live."
  • "I liked the fact that the children were left to get on with it. The children liked the weekly matches and league system. They were able to work out all the possibilites and permutations on where they would finish in the league table."
  • "I liked: only 4 weeks so easy to commit, Short games, small teams so all got a good bit of action, venue - away from the kids but could still see easily through glass windows. He liked: playing in a team, playing games, the competitive side without it being too formal or heavy duty."
  • "I loved the fact that it was all about the children and parents were not even allowed in the sports hall. I was bowled over at the level of teamwork and co-operation that a team of 6 and 7 year olds could show without any adult intevention. Watching them willingly take turns in goal and decide who was to take corners and celebrate goals without an adult shouting at them around was fantastic."
  • "It allowed the children to have fun at the same time as learning to play and develop their footballing skills. Ubaidah thought it was fantastic and he loved every minute of it and could not wait till the next session of games came round and was dissapointed that it finished."
  • "What Abdul liked best was making new friends and playing in a team."
  • "As Team Organiser for Rafi's Sunday league team, I enjoyed being able to just watch & not have to worry about subs, shoe laces etc. Rafi enjoyed playing with their friends."
  • "I liked that it was extremely well-organised, fair and got the ethos right! Fran says he liked getting better best."
  • "You are always involved. There isn't a moment when you are not doing anything. You use more skills because you have less space to run down the pitch."
  • "It is an excellent way for the kids to develop and use their skills in small and fast paced groups."

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  By Mark Carter

Copyright Ministry of Football 2020 - All Rights Reserved

Mark Carter


07772 716 876