Play Phase Safeguarding

Some clubs already provide activity for children under the age of 6, others are keen to start.

It’s essential that everyone is clear about the additional safeguards required for this younger age group categorised as ‘Early Years’ by the education sector and previously referred to as U6 Development within Whole Game System (WGS).

From 2023-2024 season, clubs who decide to provide activity for 4 and 5-year-olds are required to affiliate 4 and 5-year-olds under the new title of Play Phase. Please note: The FA does not affiliate activity designed for children younger than 4 years of age.

Whatever your club has planned for 4 and 5-year-olds, creating a supportive environment and a culture that meets the specific needs of these young children must be your priority. Although, The FA requires parents/carers to supervise their child(ren) if they are 4 or 5-years-of-age at each club session they attend. It should be noted this is not about providing childcare.

Your focus should always be - having fun in a safe and supportive way - with the right people leading the sessions. An inclusive and positive outlook, a welcoming smile, an encouraging and patient nature will be of greater benefit to these younger children than football knowledge.

Children this age need to be supported to experiment, encouraged to explore, and allowed to be creative in a consistently positive environment. Clear, simple communication with lots of demonstration will help them to have a great time.

This means you as a club you have to effectively manage some additional safeguards required for this young age group which include:

Ensure a specific safeguarding risk assessment is completed for our ’Play Phase’ activity. Template available
Have a formal registration process for each session.
Proactively communicate the availability of toilets and hand basins.
Require parents/carers to supervise their child(ren), including intimate care needs.
Have a ‘Missing child protocol’ (template on guidance linked below)

For clarity these are in addition to the safeguards required by all affiliated clubs with youth teams that include:
• a safeguarding children policy and procedures
• safer recruitment procedures including FA DBS checks
safeguarding trained club and team officials
a club welfare officer

In addition, there should be clear guidance on social media, photography, and videoing, managing personal data, medical and development needs, travel and overnight stays and giving children a voice.

Please note: Clubs who affiliate 4 and 5-year-olds under the new title Play Phase must ensure the above safeguards are also applied to all activity intended for this age group as well as specific safeguarding requirements for this younger age group as outlined on the guidance below

Please download the FA guidance document to help support you setting up and safeguarding all play phase participants.

Risk Assessments
Clubs must complete a safeguarding risk assessment that addresses the specific needs of, 4 and 5-year-olds including, but not limited to: 

  • the suitability of facilities and access to toilets 
  • adult supervision and staff ratios 
  • personal and intimate care 
  • medical and development needs

Please see below for guidance, which includes examples on pages 15-16, and a editable risk assessment documents below: