We marked the first anniversary of our Football Your Way plan by hosting a multi-team camp today, Friday 14th October, at St. George’s Park with England players from across the Senior Men’s Deaf, Partially Sighted and Cerebral Palsy squads, and the Senior Women’s Deaf team.
Launched in October 2021, the landmark disability Football Your Way plan heralded an increased commitment from The FA, with ambitions set to raise the profile of disability football and change the perceptions and social barriers to support more disabled people to play football by 2024.
In line with the goal of providing world-class coaching and support services for England para teams, St George’s Park hosted over 20 England senior para camps throughout the 2021/22 season. The home of England football also proudly supported the formation of the new England Women’s Blind team in May 2022, which saw the number of national para teams increased to seven with more to follow.
Activity at an elite level is mirrored with more provisions at a grassroots level, to drive an increase in the number of disabled people taking part in football across schools, clubs and the community for fun or competition.
The plan aims to increase participation by 50% by June 2024, by offering 2,800 opportunities to play for disabled people of all ages across all disability football formats. The figures are currently on track with 2,107 opportunities, a 13% increase on our baseline of 1,859.
Work is also being undertaken on the re-vamp of the Coaching Disabled Footballers learning offer and we will support the launch of the new e-module and Face to Face Continuing Professional Development module next year. Throughout the club network, a new toolkit and training workshop is being designed to support England Football Accredited Clubs to become more inclusive of disabled people on and off the field.
Research has also been carried out to identify how best to further embed disability provisions across existing community programmes including Weetabix Wildcats for 5 to 11-year-old girls and Snickers Protein Just Play which provides sessions for males and females aged 16-year-olds and upwards.
Across inclusion school networks new schemes have been piloted, with the introduction of a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Disney Inspired Shooting Stars club resource which aims to engage disabled children in extra-curricular activity along with a SEND Disney Inspired Shooting Stars Festival resource designed to encourage a positive introduction to competition for disabled children in schools.
Additionally, the new Project B1 initiative was piloted, a beginner friendly version of blind football to help secondary schools engage more visually impaired and blind young people in football and enable them to have a positive experience of competition.
Baroness Sue Campbell, The FA’s Director of Women's Football, and the organisation’s strategic lead for disability football, said: "We are very proud of the steps taken over the last year to unlock the growth and visibility of para football, work that could only be done by a hugely dedicated and talented team here at The FA. Through the Football Your Way plan, it’s our ambition to ensure anyone can be involved in the game, no matter whether they play for the pure enjoyment or have aspirations of one day playing for their country. This plan has so much to offer the hugely passionate and talented community of people living with a disability and I’m excited to see it continue to progress over the coming years."