FA aims to be ‘beacon for society’ as it reveals first disability football plan

  • Pledge to increase participation by 50% in three years
  • Elite pathway to be expanded plus emphasis on playing for fun

The Football Association has pledged to increase the number of people playing disability football in England by 50% in three years, as it announced its first plan to support the game.

Currently 4.5% of people with disabilities play football, fewer than the 5.9% who play golf. The FA’s Football Your Way plan intends to create 2,800 new opportunities to engage in the game – from greater provision at schools to a new “recreational football offer” for adults. It also has broader ambitions to change the culture around football and disability.

The FA’s director of women’s football, Baroness Sue Campbell, has developed the plan, alongside the director of equality, diversity and inclusion, Edleen John. Campbell says it represents an organisation “looking to drive change”.

“There’s a lot of good work gone on in the past but very much on the back of pioneers,” she added. “This is the first time as a Football Association that we have had a coordinated plan which covers all of our divisions. It’s about focusing our energy on getting more disabled people to play our game to enjoy our game and to stay in our game.”

Campbell said he plan was born out of recognition that there had not been enough work on disability inclusion, but also that the quality of the work could be improved. “It reminded me very much of where the women’s game was five or six years ago,” she said.

The FA intends to expand the pathway for players looking to reach the top and will create women’s national teams for blind players and those with cerebral palsy. A target of 1,000 new disability football coaches has also been set, with current players set to be fast-tracked into the roles. The percentage of people with disabilities on the FA’s payroll is targeted to grow from 3.3% to 10%.

Disabled people are twice as likely to be inactive as non-disabled people, figures further affected by the pandemic. Campbell says that information and instilling confidence are the most important factors in making the plan work but that football has an ability to drive change more broadly in society.

“Information is key, but my experience is that at starter level it’s about confidence,” Campbell said. “That’s why we want to say it isn’t all about heavy competition. If you just want to come and play for fun we’re going to create opportunities for you where you [don’t] feel you’re going to be measured or that you might be hurt. That might sound overprotective but I think the reality is we’ve got to get people back in playing and enjoying being active again.

“I passionately believe that football is a powerful way to get messages into society. If we can demonstrate our commitment and really make a difference to people’s lives, maybe we can be a beacon for other people in society to recognise that we should and could do more.”


Paul MacInnes

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
England amputees thank Premier League for World Cup funding after FA snub
The manager of England’s amputee football side has thanked its sponsors and the Premier League for donations that will enable them to travel to Turkey later this month to compete in the 2018 World Cup

Ed Aarons

17, Oct, 2018 @8:00 AM

Article image
FA under fire for new diversity code that excludes disabled people
The FA’s new diversity code, which excludes disabled people, has come under fire for the omission

Paul MacInnes

05, Nov, 2020 @8:00 AM

Article image
‘It’s given me so much confidence’: disability football scheme brings joy to Tottenham
A Premier League initiative is embracing thousands of young people across 28 clubs. Players and a coach share their stories

Simon Burnton

12, Aug, 2019 @1:37 PM

Article image
Sport England boosts weightlifting, badminton, archery and wheelchair rugby
Sport England is planning to soften the blow for four sports that had their elite funding axed last week by providing additional investment to help them bring young talent through

Sean Ingle

16, Dec, 2016 @2:38 PM

Article image
Ryan Atkin becomes first openly gay professional official in English football
Ryan Atkin has become England’s first openly gay professional official, with the FA welcoming the 32-year-old’s revelation of his sexuality as a landmark sign of progress

Paul Wilson

10, Aug, 2017 @12:39 PM

Article image
How rugby league for players with learning difficulties may change lives | Aaron Bower
The Learning Disability Super League, to launch at Magic Weekend in May, has been hailed as a ‘gamechanger’ for the sport

Aaron Bower

22, Mar, 2019 @3:45 PM

Article image
Covid's harmful effect on disabled people's activity exposed by survey
The Annual Disability and Activity Survey have published its findings and the
chief executive, Barry Horne, says the report reflects impact of the pandemic on disabled people

Paul MacInnes

03, Feb, 2021 @8:00 AM

Article image
FA aims to almost triple average WSL attendances to 6,000 in three years
Women’s Super League matches have attracted an average combined peak audience of almost one million across Sky Sports and the BBC

Suzanne Wrack

09, Nov, 2021 @5:25 PM

Article image
Para-swimmers are ‘exaggerating their disability’, MPs told
The crisis facing the Paralympic movement over alleged abuse of the classification system deepened after claims swimmers are deliberately exaggerating their disability in order to win more medals

Martha Kelner

01, Nov, 2017 @8:38 PM

Article image
Jonnie Peacock: football needs to up its game with disabled fans
The Paralympics star tells Simon Burnton disabled fans ‘want to enjoy games like anybody else. They don’t want anything else, whether it’s struggling to find a toilet or discrimination’

Simon Burnton

16, May, 2017 @12:25 PM