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Lost City

8 Places to Play Football in Nottingham

7 February 17 words: Nelson Walker

Whether you are an aspiring professional footballer, a fanatic or simply someone searching for a bit of a fun with your mates, Nottingham – the first ‘City of Football’ – is unarguably the perfect playground to have a kickabout.

Sparkling floodlit pitches, established league set-ups and a project aimed at supporting one of the most deprived areas in Britain, the City of Football initiative has most certainly provided the platform for people to don their beloved team jersey, get out the house and make those twinkle toes twitch again. Join Nelson Walker on his quest to discover the best places to play football in Nottingham...

photo: Alan Murray-Rust


The ‘centre spot is just the start’ goes the saying from the chaps at Powerleague, and being the UK’s original provider of commercial football, it’s easy to see why.

Powerleague focuses on bringing the local people together, sharing the good times as a community, being proud of where they’re from and being the good old home of five-a-side football.

They are proud to be the world’s largest provider of community clubs, with fifty clubs across Europe and 10 million people walking through the doors of Powerleague centres each year.

Individuality is a core theme in their FA accredited leagues, with each club able to design their own team crest to represent their local community in their league. In 200 locations, every week nationwide, 30,000 players of these clubs compete in five- and seven-a-side matches and with FA qualified referees, trophies, balls and fixtures all set up by Powerleague themselves, which means every player, of every age category, has a reason to fight until the final whistle.

Powerleague also have some fancy new 5G artificial pitches, the fifth generation of the development of the adored astro turf. 5G aims to give you that crisp control of the ball, the bounce of the ball mirrored on a real-grass football field and a slickness about the play.

The full-football package, some would say. So head down to Powerleague and experience ‘the beautiful game’ at its best.


Zorbing – invented by Dwane van der Sluis and Andrew Akers in 1994 – is a concept in which people are strapped inside a huge inflatable sphere, and has become quite the craze in recent years. Whether you’re thrusting forward down slopes at the first zorbing site in Rotorua, New Zealand, zorbing has gained in popularity all across the globe and therefore it is unsurprising that it’s been replicated in many different forms, notably on the football field.

At PlayFootball in Arnold, they specifically offer zorb football, also known as ‘Bubble Football’, – great for a birthday party, corporate event, a stag or hen do, or even just getting a group together for a laugh. The folks offer a wide variety of game types too, including the traditional ‘Standard Football’, ‘British Bulldog’, the coveted ‘King of the Ring’ or simple yet ferocious one-on-one duels. You’ll be provided a quick safety brief by the director at PlayFootball, but after that you are allowed sixty minutes of zorb mania on a seamless 3G pitch. Be prepared for some full-on zorb battling!

If zorbing ain’t your cup of tea, you can always hire a pitch at the centre and there are plenty of competitive five-, six- or seven-a-side leagues to get involved in. Rebound boards, roof nets and extended side netting help to keep the ball in play at all times, maintaining the intensity of the game and only lengthening the action.

photo: Steve Bradwell

Forest Recreation Ground

As part of the City of Football’s brilliant exertions, they helped to launch the new Forest Sports Zone in a £1.8 million improvement project, in partnership with the Nottingham City Council and Nottingham Forest in the Community, to provide one of the UK’s most deprived areas a wonderful new football complex, where people from the local area can test out their tricks.

The improvements include better quality artificial pitches for players, the creation of 3G pitches and a new multi-use games area, abbreviated as MUGA.

At the heart of the new plan, the new complex encourages people to get out and play some sport while having fun, and could provide the ticket to a more positive future for some.

Harvey Hadden Sports Village

Another revamped, expanded and developed sports facility is the Harvey Hadden Sports Village in Bilborough, a £16 million redevelopment and the largest sum of money invested by Nottingham City Council’s Leisure transformation program, which is also helping to provide local communities with a fantastic new sporting leisure centre at their fingertips.

In addition to the new eight-lane, fifty-metre swimming pool, an improved athletics stadium, an expanded running track, a 45-station gym, an indoor sixty-metre running track, and a 1.5km closed road cycling circuit, Harvey Hadden also have introduced new all-weather football pitches under the catchy title of Astro Kings.

Here, football players can battle it out on five five-a-side pitches and a large pitch suitable for seven- and nine-a-side football, so overall, quite the renovation.

Nottingham Forest Academy

And now, for the particularly passionate younger players wanting to make a name for themselves in the game, the esteemed Nottingham Forest Academy, set up in 1997, could be the ideal breeding ground.

Established as part of then FA technical director Howard Wilkinson’s Charter for Quality – a plan to unearth the most promising young talent in Britain – many people would regard the academy as a huge success.

Graduates of the academy include the likes of Marlon Harewood, a striker who reached the 2006 FA Cup final; Michael Dawson, now Hull City’s captain in the Premier League; and the no-nonsense Leicester City title-winning captain Wes Morgan, whose bullish and muscular defending helped to drive one of the most remarkable football successes of all time last season. All of them made a mark on the first-team stage.

Others to have prospered include Andy Reid, Jermaine Jenas and Jamaal Lascelles, and most recently the Scottish winger Oliver Burke, whose £12 million move to the Bundesliga’s boldest in RB Leipzig did little to extinguish the fury of the Forest faithful in the continuing battle against owner Fawaz Al-Hasawi.

Despite the Charter enabling clubs to have 270 youngsters all the way through the ranks of nine years old to eighteen, Forest prefer to have 100, to provide players with more concentrated coaching and support.

So, if you’re a talented player recommended to the Forest Academy and offered a place, with endeavour and commitment, by working yourself up the ladder to the U21 level, and then the first-team, you could go on to emulate some of the aforementioned greats to have risen through the academy to achieve brilliant things in the game.

Notts County Football in the Community

If you didn’t already know, Notts County Football in the Community is an independent sports charity, and they’ve got loads of programmes designed to support talented people, especially from disadvantaged communities. For a start, they’ve got Moving Meadows, where young people can meet every Friday to try out different sports activities, like football, and everything else from badminton to contemporary dance. The organisation also hosts sessions specifically designed to get young women involved in the beautiful game – Premier Girls’ Football welcomes all females aged 14 - 25 to have a go and make a few mates.

And they’re just a couple of the programmes. With the prestigious profile of the world’s oldest football league club, County guide people in the right direction in all sorts of ways, working with people of all ages and abilities every day. Make sure you check out their website if you want the full lowdown on how to get involved. 

Riverside Sports Complex

Situated only two miles away from University Park Campus, the Riverside Sports Complex is the largest student sport complex at the University of Nottingham and could be another terrific place to tighten your boot laces.

The complex covers a massive 150 acres of sports pitches and is packed with two pavilions, fully equipped with playing and meeting room spaces and viewing galleries.

With sixteen football fields, six rugby pitches and three cricket pitches, the playing fields cater for intramural, society or faculty matches throughout the year.

So, if you’re a student preparing to embark on your Nottingham University adventure, there’s probably no better area within the University to have a kickabout, or to try out a new sport with your new mates.

Highfields Playing Complex

Another complex, located on University Boulevard, just opposite University Park Campus, however, hosts the majority of student representative sports programme. This is the Highfields Playing Complex.

You’re spoilt for choice here – the site includes eight football pitches, three rugby pitches, two cricket squares, three tennis courts and two netball courts.

It’s the premier outdoor venue, certainly in Nottingham University, and is fully fitted with extensive changing, viewing and conference facilities. Also, look out for the iconic Vaughn Parry Williams Pavillion, constructed in the shape of a rugby ball!


Ultimately, I think you’ll agree that Nottingham is certainly not short of options when it comes to places to have a kickabout, or a home to embark upon your sporting journey.

The City of Football project and the people behind the scenes are doing a tremendous job in helping the people of Nottingham to fall in love with the ‘beautiful game’ and I think it’s worth remembering, as the saying from Powerleague goes, ‘the centre spot is just the start.’

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