There are more opportunities than ever to get involved with grassroots disability football

An introduction to grassroots disability football

There are now more opportunities than ever to play football if you have a disability.

There are three main pathways open to disabled people:

  • Mainstream Football: For anyone who can play without adaptions to football’s rules. Disabled players and non-disabled players play together
  • Pan-disability Football: For players with a broad spectrum of impairments and health conditions to play together
  • Impairment-specific Football: For people with the same impairment to play together. There are a range of formats, each one designed to meet the needs of the players’ impairment. Some examples are Blind Football, Cerebral Palsy Football and Powerchair Football

Pan-disability football

The pan-disability pathway allows players with a broad spectrum of impairments and health conditions to play together. The majority of recreational and competition-based opportunities in England play this format, making it the largest disability-specific football pathway.

Anyone who has a disability, impairment or long-term health condition (as defined by the Equality Act 2010) can take part in pan-disability football. However, blind players are directed into blind specific settings, due to health and safety implications. Wheelchair users can be included in recreational formats, but its not advisable in competition settings. Instead, they should be encouraged to access competition in powerchair football formats.

There’s no formal classification system within pan-disability football. This is because, by its very nature, it allows players with a broad spectrum of impairments to play together. However, the game still needs to be fair, positive and enjoyable experience. So, when numbers permit, ability banding is used. This is mainly at competition level, with teams sorted into ‘premiership’, ‘championship’ and ‘league’ categories.

There’s a network of localised pan-disability leagues across England, to find your local league contact your County FA.


Impairment Specific Football

Traditionally disability sport has developed along impairment-specific lines which means that players with the same impairment play against players with similar impairments. Football is no different and there are a range of different impairment specific formats in England.

Impairment specific football often gives players the best possible experience of the game as each format has been designed to meet the needs of the players taking part. This includes adaptions to the laws of the game plus clear eligibility and classification systems that help create fair competition.

Impairment specific football offers opportunity from grassroots right through to an elite environment. This includes international competition with international federations organising World and European championships across amputee, blind, cerebral palsy. deaf, learning disability, partially sighted and powerchair football.


At grassroots there are impairment specific opportunities for other impairment groups such as Downs Syndrome, dwarfs/restricted growth, mental health and frame users however there is no recognised national representation currently available.


How to get involved

We work in partnership with the County FA network to offer a range of other partners to ensure opportunities to play exist at a local level across all three pathways.

There has been significant growth in recent years that has seen the number of disability specific team’s increase from 384 in 2009 to over 2,450 as of the end of season 2019-20 while a network of less formalised recreation centres are also delivered by County FAs and their partners.

We also work closely with the Premier League and English Football League Trusts who both also provide opportunities for disabled people to play.

You can find football local to you by using the find football search or by contacting your local County FA.