Disability football in Cumbria has received a major boost following the announcement of more than £1m in grants to EFL club community trusts up and down the country, including here at Carlisle United.
The “Every Player Counts” programme is funded by the Wembley National Stadium Trust (WNST) and administered by the EFL Trust. United are one of 25 clubs selected to run the programme.
The club has linked up with Cumbria Wheelchair Sports Club to form the official Carlisle United Powerchair Football team which allows children and adults of all abilities to participate in the beautiful game.
to find out more about the CWSC Powerchair Football team.
An initial grant of £8,000 has already been received for use by the Powerchair Football team through the 2016/17 season.
Mike Evans Director of Operations at the EFL Trust said: “The strength of this innovative partnership with WNST is that, rather than having some general national goals, it targets specific local needs. The unique positioning of EFL clubs and their community trusts, at the heart of their communities, provide a strong understanding of what is needed to deliver a project that makes a difference to local people.”
United’s Community Sports Trust manager John Halpin said: “We linked up with the Powerchair Football team before we’d made contact with WNST, so the subsequent award of this grant is going to help CWSC to take the provision of the sport to another level.
“CWSC caters for players young and old with their Powerchair Football programme and it is magnificent to see the impact it has made in the local area. We are delighted to be part of this and we thank WNST for throwing their resources and support behind what is such a worthwhile project.”
Ray McBride, chairman of the CWSC, said: “We’d like to thank Carlisle United and WNST for recognising our Powerchair Football project in this way. The equipment costs are significant for a sport like this, but we felt we had to do what we could to bring it to Cumbria and to allow as many people as possible to get enjoyment from being able to play football.
“The award of the grant will allow us to get even more people involved and to bring the sport to a wider audience. All of our wheelchair club members feel privileged to have received the backing of two such significant organisations.”
The WNST trustees have awarded 23 grants, totalling £1,070,450 over three years, benefitting 25 clubs around England (one grant covers the three clubs in Nottinghamshire). These clubs cover the length and breadth of the country, from Plymouth to Carlisle and Southend to Shrewsbury and are located in a mixture of built-up metropolitan boroughs and more rural locations – all aimed at giving the programme as wide a focus as possible.
The grants awarded reflect this diversity of need. A number of clubs will be involved in developing new impairment specific projects focusing on for example, autism, mental health, learning disabilities, amputees or powerchair football. Some will be expanding their pan-disability football offer in new locations or with new audiences. Others will be using their skills and experience to support local grassroots community clubs to develop their own in-house disability football capacity.
The over-riding aim of the scheme is to increase the amount of disabled people participating in football, breaking down the barriers that have prevented them from doing so. Since the London 2012 Paralympics, we have seen a major increase in the number of disabled people playing sport or wanting to do so. This programme builds on previous work at both WNST and EFL Trust and will continue the expansion of the opportunities available to disabled people to get involved.
It is not a ‘talent pathway’ programme – that is rightly the responsibility of the FA and the other governing bodies overseeing disability football. Of course, if one of the projects discovers a future international or Paralympian, that would be a great achievement, but it is not a required indicator of success.
Nevertheless, it is a key consideration for each club, that anyone getting involved in playing through one of these funded projects has a clear exit route to continue their football experience if that is what they want – whether it is just for fun, within a competitive environment or looking for representative honours. It is therefore important that the county FAs and other sports providers are linked into these projects, as well as each club having other opportunities to offer people to play.