The new workshop has been created to give club committee members the knowledge and understanding of ways they can make their club more inclusive and welcoming for disabled people. This is combined with the Journey to Inclusion Toolkit which has been developed in partnership with Activity Alliance. More information on both can be found here.
For the England Football Accredited Clubs in attendance, they have also had the opportunity to develop action plans and are now being supported by Cameron Gordon, who is Middlesex FA’s Disability Football Ambassador. Cameron will be supporting clubs in a multitude of ways including supporting with applications to become a Comets provider.
Comets is a recreational football programme specifically designed for disabled children aged 5-11 and in his role, Cameron will also be helping clubs to ensure there is a designated disability officer on the club committee, supporting with writing funding applications and providing advice on recruiting players. Following this, Cameron will be signposting clubs to relevant training courses, such as the FA’s new Introduction to Coaching Disabled Footballers Course, as well as signposting to the FA Disability Coach Mentoring programme.
Some of the clubs in attendance on the night including Middlesex affiliated Omonia Youth and Ickenham Youth who are some of biggest in terms of participation numbers across all of youth football in the county and looking to expand their number of teams to open up a disability pathway as well.
Daniel Perkins, Football Development Officer for Inclusion, commented: “Omonia Youth are already participating in our new monthly pan disability youth festivals and Club Welfare Officer Mary Tryphona has played a very important role in supporting other clubs to bring their teams along. The festivals are a friendly, fun and safe introduction to playing fixtures with other teams to ensure that everyone who want to be included, can be. Moving forward, we aim to connect the festivals to our adult divisions, which will form a full league structure across the disability pathway.”
Mary picks up the story herself: “I used to play football from school to club level but when my daughter couldn’t find a club, I approached Omonia’s Chairperson who said to get my coaching badges and you can start - so that’s exactly what I did and now I coach the U13 girls team. I began coaching the Pan disability teams as their coach was leaving and after one session with these children, it felt like home; so I grabbed the opportunity to work with these amazing children. This training session was a chance to get advice on the barriers which we may come up against plus understand the support network available both from The FA, County FA and other clubs across the area. Tips such as getting a Disability Officer installed at our club for all players in both the youth and pan disability teams was great to take back to Omonia’s committee. Having the workshop at the Wembley, the home of football was fantastic so what better place to get together and make plans for the next stages of our development alongside Middlesex FA staff and contemporaries from other clubs such as Ickenham.”
In attendance from Ickenham Youth was Club Welfare Officer Michelle Parker, who summarised her own club’s journey: “Having been involved with Ickenham Youth since my son joined 11 years ago, I have always been keen to support the club which eventually saw me take up role as welfare officer and trustee 4 years ago. I am now heavily involved in the running of Ickenham Youth with our 600+ players with 45 teams - I’d be a millionaire if I wasn’t a volunteer!
As a grassroots community team, we have recently and successfully established the girls teams from ages U6-U16 and our next aim is to be a fully inclusive community football club. There is a need to support those players who have lack the opportunity to play football so Ickenham Youth would like to help meet that need. This session at Wembley was excellent with a joining of minds across the local counties and with clubs who have a real passion for improving the provision for disability football. I particularly liked the opportunity to learn from the experience from other clubs such as Southwark Stars and Omonia Youth who are excelling in this area.”
With the next Pan Disability Youth Festival taking place on Sunday 11th February, be sure to visit the news section of the MFA website to see some interviews and photos from the event soon.
If you’d like to find out any more information around the opportunities your club has for getting involved and developing your own Disability pathway, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help support taking the first steps.