The Rule Of 6 And Sport

Young boy playing football wearing a blue jersey with number 7 on the back.

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The rules keep changing. Like a school cross-country run, it can be difficult to keep up. What sports and activities are our children allowed to play? 

The following summary applies to England only, and is based on official government guidelines, accurate on 23 September 2020. Always check the government’s site for the most up-to-date information.

Indoor Sports

The new restrictions announced on 22 September ban most indoor sporting activities that involve more than six people. However, the restriction applies to adults only. Under-18s sports, so long as they are properly organised by a club or school, can continue indoors with more than six people. Your child’s five-a-side group or netball practice may still be able to go ahead. Unless we’re elite athletes (who are exempt from the rules), us adults will have to live without indoor team sports for the immediate future, although activities with fewer participants, like badminton and squash, can continue. One further exception ensures that “Organised indoor team sports for disabled people can take place in any number”.

Indoor exercise classes and gyms can also still operate so long as participants remain socially distanced at all times. 

Outdoor Sports

Organised outdoor sports remain unaffected by the new announcements. Both adult and under-18s team sports can still go ahead so long as they are properly organised. What does that mean? The government’s guidelines state that the sport must be: “organised by a national governing body, club, registered instructor/coach, business or charity; and/or involve someone who has received an official license to use equipment relevant to the activity”. The game must also follow safety precautions detailed by the sport’s governing body. When taking part in any organised sport, you should be careful not to mingle in groups larger than six before or after the activity.

Any informal games, like the traditional “jumpers for goalposts” park kickaround, has to obey the rule of six. The exception is if all players come from the same household or support bubble. 


Normal rule-of-six restrictions apply to people watching a grassroots sport. You can watch somebody else's game of football, say, but not with more than five other people in your group. The Government was looking into reopening spectator stands at professional sports grounds from 1 October, but that has now been postponed. 


Written By

Matt Brown

Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.

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