Thousands of people across the country with a wide range of disabilities have benefitted from the first year of the EFL Trusts’ Every Player Counts Disability Football programme.
The Every Player Counts programme started in September 2016 and supports the EFL Trust’s aim of increasing sports participation for all.
In its first year the programme got 3,634 unique participants involved in sport, many for the first time, exceeding its year one target by over 20%.
The landmark project was made possible thanks to a £1.1m donation from the Wembley National Stadium Trust (WNST). The funding represented WNST’s largest single donation to date and its first England-wide grants programme.
Mike Evans, EFL Trust Director of Operations said: “The first year of the programme has been a tremendous success, giving thousands of people access to sport regardless of their background or abilities.
”The partnership with Wembley National Stadium Trust has enabled our network to reach even further into their communities and use the power of football to make a real difference to people’s lives. We are pleased that the success of year one means we can continue to reach more people in year two.”
The programme covers a wide range of disabilities with the simple aim of getting more people involved in sport. 25 EFL clubs run the Every Player Counts programmes that are tailored to the specific needs of their local community.
Stewart Goshawk, WNST Chief Executive added “We all understand the power that sport has to change lives for the better. These opportunities to play football through “Every Player Counts” are having such a positive impact on the lives of so many disabled people, both young and old, right across the country.
“The chance to be involved in a project at their local professional football club is a great attraction for many of the participants and the quality of the programmes on offer are a testament to the excellent work undertaken by the club community trusts within their local neighbourhoods. We look forward to Year 2 being just as successful.”
The 25 EFL Club Trusts deliver activity covering a wide range of disability programmes including wheelchair football, football for visual impairment, learning difficulties, amputees and autism, giving many disabled people access to football for the first time.
Rhys Swift, a participant of Leeds United Foundation’s Every Player Counts sessions, is visually impaired and finds playing football with other visually impaired kids better for him as they share similar experiences.
His dad, David, said: ”Leeds United Foundation has been most helpful. Rhys has gained his confidence back and his love for plating football. Playing with other VI kids has really helped him as they share relatable experiences.
”As a parent I have seen how much these sessions have meant to Rhys, it is like he has found his element. Playing football is so important to him and Leeds United Foundation coaches have given him hope for the future.”
Although individual programmes will differ from club to club, the emphasis is always on increasing participation, improving health and championing the social benefits of taking part in football. The over- riding aim of the scheme is to increase the amount of disabled people participating in football reaching out to over 3000 people per year, breaking down the barriers that have prevented them from doing so.
To find out more about Every Player Counts visit: http://www.efltrust.com/projects/every-player-counts/