WALKING Football seems to be the fastest growing sport in the UK at the moment, with a reported 1200-plus clubs playing the game, and more and more starting up every week.

The first time most people became aware of the game was when they saw the now famous advert for a national bank which features the over-50s walking football club “Cove Rapidly Ageing Pensioners” (CRAP) in training at their home in Cove, Hampshire. The development of the game however has a close link to the shores of Ayrshire as the club were set up four years ago by a former resident.

Michael Quinn (54) from Stevenston started his playing career many years ago at the age of 14 with Ardeer Thistle, when he progressed from being the ball-boy to being a first team regular.

His promising career never quite reached the potential it threatened due to a spate of serious injuries whilst playing abroad in the Italian Leagues, but the catalogue of injuries led him into another career in football.

“I never could get my fitness level back after my second ankle break and was forever visiting Physiotherapists. Eventually I decided to change my career and studied Sports Therapy at University which led me into professional football," said Michael.

The spell in professional football brought silverware at Brentford FC and Wycombe Wanderers where league titles and promotion were gained and a short stint at Crawley Town followed before settling into private practice at “Quinntessential Sports Therapy”.

The Walking Football Club first started as a rehabilitation session for late stage rehab patients and the potential of the sport was plain to see. The Cove club were formed with just five players at the first session but now boasts over 120 registered players playing in the three weekly sessions.

Demand for the game has kept growing and now Michael and his fellow Scot, Tony Grace have started a tour company to cater for the overseas trips to develop the game.

Michael added: “We were the first team to play an International Walking football match and introduced the game to Portugal and then Italy the following year, we now have www.walkingfootballtours.com, which provides safely structured trips abroad to meet the demands of the more adventurous players.”

The health benefits are amazing with players improving cardio vascular fitness, weight loss, better balance and lower cholesterol along with the mental health and social benefits of having something to look forward to with new friends.

“I am also very strict on the safety aspects and as well as my medical bag, we have a defibrillator pitch side in case of emergencies. Our rules are strict and as well as walking at all times we include three touch football which reduces the tackling by 60% and we keep the ball below the six-foot goal height to avoid head knocks.

"Most people gave up playing in their mid-30s due to the physical demands of football but this is a way back into the Beautiful Game with less stress on the body and the opportunity to enjoy a new lease of life pulling the astroturf boots on," added the Stevenston native.

If you would like to know any more about the rules or the trips check out the websites at www.walkingfootballtours.com or contact www.mqst.co.uk for further details.