A London project is creating the blueprint for future direction of grassroots disability football across the country.
Inclusive United is a flagship £3.2 million project funded by the FA and partners to get 30,000 more disabled people playing football nationwide and boost the number of disability teams within Charter Standard clubs by 500 over three years.
And the seeds of the project are already starting to take root with the roll out of London United, an FA-led collective of the Community Trusts of each of the 14 Professional Football clubs in the capital in partnership with voluntary sector partners and local County FAs.
The FA’s senior National Game development manager Pete Ackerley said: “Disability football is the seventh largest team sport in the country and Inclusive United is a way in which we are finally bringing partners together to develop disability football.
“The approach has been somewhat disjointed in the past, but what we are doing in London is ground-breaking stuff and probably will set out the standard for how we do this nationally.”
One of the first players to benefit has been 19-year-old Caoimhe Patterson, who joined the QPR Community Trust pan-disability team in September.
“I started playing football seven years ago, but this is my first season at QPR and my game has improved massively. The training is very structured and we get practice different skills as well as playing matches. These opportunities were not there before.”
James Casling, 19, who plays for QPR Community Trust’s mental health team also serves as one of the coaches.
“I love the opportunity to play and coach. The chance to do both came about because QPR Community Trust saw potential in me when I joined and offered to pay for my Level One Coaching qualification.
"It’s the best thing I have ever done. The smiles of the kids’ faces is one of the best feelings in the world. I would love to develop a career in coaching.”
The London project is joint-funded in partnership with the Wembley National Stadium Trust and is being overseen by Interactive, who promote disability equality in sport across London aiming to deliver a major step change in the availability and quality of football opportunities for disabled people.
In its first year the initiative has already led a 9,000 boost in disability participation and the establishment of 125 new disability teams.