A last-minute goal or a dodgy VAR decision are both guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of footy fans but this Christmas a new project will use football as a way to offer checks for those at risk of high blood pressure and heart problems.

The innovative partnership between the local Surrey NHS, Surrey FA and Surrey County Council is part of the “BP+” healthchecks programme and will see a blood pressure and pulse checking stall set up at Surrey’s next walking football league meeting in Elmbridge on Thursday December 12.

High blood pressure can lead to a range of serious complications including heart failure, stroke and dementia, with older people being particularly vulnerable. While undiagnosed atrial fibrillation (AF) increases the risk of stroke by five times.

This is why the NHS will be setting up checks before the games, meaning the walking football players, who are mainly over fifty, will be able to get checked before they pull on their boots.

Project bosses are now calling on football clubs across the country to offer similar stalls for fans to get health checked on match days so that, with apologies to Liverpool F.C., people can ‘Walk on, walk on, with a healthier heart’.

Walking football is a slow-paced version of the beautiful game aimed at getting players back involved in the sport, a fitness opportunity for those with less mobility and a chance to socialise for older people who may be feeling lonely or isolated. It’s non-contact and anyone that sprints, runs or jogs while the ball is in play will be penalised with a free-kick awarded to the other team.

Mike Gilham, Surrey FA’s Head of Participation and Development commented: “We are delighted to be able to collaborate with Surrey Heartlands on this project. There are thousands of players participating in the game across the county, and with research demonstrating the benefits of physical activity on health, the collaboration was a logical move.

“We hope that by bringing health checks to pre-existing activity, we can add value to our players and hopefully improve their health along the way.”