Reaching Out and Reconnecting: How Blackpool FC changed Chloe’s life

Having experienced homelessness and addiction and with her only income coming through Universal Credit Chloe really wanted to find employment. However, her trans status and involvement within the LGBT+ community had provided a negative experience in previous workplaces which left her with no confidence and lacking any self-belief.

Enrolling on the Training Ground Programme in connection with Blackpool FC Community Trust saw Chloe gain numerous basic skills from Maths and English to money management. However, another huge personal achievement saw her participate in the weekly physical activity session having never really considered exercise as something for her.

The Training Ground Programme is aimed at young people aged 18-24 who are currently unemployed and may be at risk of becoming long-term unemployed. Participants may be in receipt of, or eligible to claim Universal Credit at the start of the programme. Participants equally may not be in receipt of any government benefits. Participants must be NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) to be eligible to take part in the programme. The Training Ground Programme is funded via a development grant issued to EFL Trust from the Youth Futures Foundation. This funding will cover the delivery costs of a pilot programme in partnership with 6 EFL Trust CCOs.

As Chloe’s confidence and self-belief started to grow, Chloe shone both inside and outside of the programme.

She commented “It’s the best thing I have ever participated in, and my future looks bright for the first time.”

Chloe grew professionally which resulted in her being offered a Volunteering Co-Ordinator Kickstart role. On top of this, the programmes ability to nurture her self-worth and confidence also saw her reconnect with her family to share her success.

 

How Club Doncaster allows participants to fall in love with football: Steph’s Story

How Club Doncaster allows participants to fall in love with football: Steph’s Story.

Steph has always had a passion for football but due to her physical disability she struggled to find a team that suited to her individual needs. This meant she had been out of the sport for several years which as Steff admits led her to lose confidence. She says. “I wasn’t the most confident person and didn’t really believe in my own ability.”

This was all until in 2016 whilst at university she came across Club Doncaster Titans which are part of the EFL Trust and Wembley National Stadium Trusts Every Player Counts Programme. The programme has over the past five years, helped get over 13 000 people with a wide range of disabilities playing football – many for the first time .

But, after just her first session she felt “happier, more active and fell in love with football again!”  As she continued her journey at the club, she was provided the opportunity to get into coaching which started as leading the warms ups before progressing into having her own Wildcats session. Steph credits Darren, the Titans coach in helping her believe in herself.

She said: “I owe a lot to Club Doncaster Titans and Darren Warner for all the opportunities and experience they have provided me with which has really helped me grown and develop as a person and as a coach.”

Consequently, her belief and development with support from Darren has seen her takeover the Under 12 session allowing her to aid participants on a similar journey to herself.

In 2021, Steph was given the chance to begin a female only session with freedom to tailor it as her own initiative. She explained: “This session has really grown into its own and is thriving enough where we now have enough female players to compete.”

One of Stephs female players, Sheridan Batunas was full of praise for her coach. She said: “Steph is an amazing coach for our ladies’ team- she is always very friendly and polite and has a very big heart. I couldn’t wish for a better coach.”

Steph now hopes to “continue Darren’s legacy and keep providing opportunities for all.”

Club Doncaster are one of 28 Football Club Community Organisations across the country that offer the programme, which is specifically developed for the needs of people in their local community, including those with both physical, mental and learning impairments.

 

 

Colin Bennett: Why International Day of People with Disabilities is Important

Today, Friday 3rd December, is International Day of People with Disabilities (International Day of People with Disabilities (idpwd.org)).

But for people with disabilities, it’s not about one day and then move on to the next special day. It’s every day, week, month, all year. Every year.

And that’s why days like this are so important. The day should be seen as a platform to highlight the challenges and barriers to people with a disability and even more so, amplify the great work that goes on. Let’s keep the conversation relevant, front and centre and ensure our work is the norm.

I am very proud to be the Project Manager for the EFL Trust’s Every Player Counts project which has been funded by Wembley National Stadium for the last 5 years. By the end of the 5th year our network of Club Community Organisations (CCOs) will have delivered football to nearly 15,000 participants, enabling and empowering people of all ages to be active and play.

And it’s more than just play. We know that being active is good for people’s mental and physical health, their social inclusion and for them to have a community connection. We have participants who previously wouldn’t leave their house but now have started jobs, apprenticeships, college courses. We are hearing from teachers that participants are more outgoing; we are hearing from participants that the one thing they will not miss is their football; we are seeing a pride that participants can represent their club; we know the importance of the strength of the network’s community work.

Throughout today we are highlighting that work in just some of our CCOs to showcase what we do but also to celebrate the participants and their families. Disability should not be seen as a difference. Because in fact over 80% of disabled people acquired disability later in life. Fewer than 20% were born with disability.

Think about that for a moment.

Of the people with a disability fewer than 20% were born with their disability.

The work continues every day in our communities and through the EFL Trust CCOs I see first-hand these great stories. Hopefully you can support the amplification of the message and I look forward to continuing the great work each and every day.

Alfie’s performances on and off the pitch highlight the great work of MK Don’s Every Player Counts programme

MK Don’s Inclusion programme has seen Alfie develop on and off the pitch in support of the Trust.

Alfie has learning difficulties but doesn’t allow these to stop him for achieving his dream of football. However, this was briefly halted for when he sustained a head injury whilst on holiday, a short time into his arrival at MK Dons.  Kelly Day, MK Dons Inclusion and Disability Lead explained: “he was determined to return in the shortest time possible and was back with us within 3 months of the injury.”

MK Dons are part of the Every Player Counts programme which is funded by Wembley National Stadium Trust and EFL Trust. Every Player Counts has, over the past five years, helped get over 13 000 people with a wide range of disabilities playing football – many for the first time.

Alfie has been an influential part of the MK Dons Inclusion group, delivering performances on the field as well as raising money for the Princess Trust and the MK Dons Sports and Education Trust.

His decision to cut his locks that he had “spent years growing” came as a surprise to all who knew him as he loved his hair. However, “decided that when he has grown this enough, he would have this cut to be sent to the Princess Trust to make wigs for girls who have been battling cancer.”

Alongside this, he also took It upon himself to support the MK Dons family by fundraising to assist in buying 80 football, 80 cones and 80 training bibs so the adult teams were able to deliver training that Alfie himself takes such pride in attending.

Similarly, to his ability to deliver off the pitch, Alfie has developed his physicality and maturity of the game to enable him to step up to the Championship level of competition. He has represented the Trust’s Inclusion team in the FA Cup on numerous occasions whilst assisting with the Youth Inclusion sessions and his local Kempston Under 7 team.

Alfie’s mum echoed the thoughts of many: “Alfie has an amazing sense of humour and is always willing to help when players are feeling low or need that much needed push to believe.”

Alfie will continue to provide assists in anyway he can whether with a ball at his feet or not.

MK Dons are one of 28 Football Club Community Organisations across the country that offer the programme, which is specifically developed for the needs of people in their local community, including those with both physical, mental, and learning impairments.

Cambridge United’s Every Player Counts session has opened up a new world of opportunities for Zoe.

How Cambridge United’s Community Trust has fueled Zoe’s fire to prove doubters wrong.

Zoe lost her sight aged 21 and felt she also lost her place in the community as she had to quit her job. She had constantly had people tell her she couldn’t do certain things anymore. This was all until Cambridge United’s Disability Officer, Phil approached her whilst she was queuing in her local town.

She recalls: “My husband walked me in to my first Cambridge United Community Trust Visually Impaired session at Coleridge Community College, that was the first Sunday after I’d been approached by Phil and that is it, I’ve been back every week since!”

Cambridge United are part of the Every Player Counts programme which is funded by Wembley National Stadium Trust and EFL Trust.  Every Player Counts has, over the past five years, helped get over 13 000 people with a wide range of disabilities playing football – many for the first time .

Zoe had not previously met any other visually impaired people within her social circle. However since attending she said: “ I have a full range of friends in the community… it’s opened up opportunities to meet other visually impaired people in different parts of Cambridge with other social things that are going on.”

More so, Zoe has extra motivation in her children as she explains: “The more people say you can’t do that, the more I’m driven to prove that I can. I’m trying to push the female side of the sport and be a good role model for my kids too. I want them to know it doesn’t matter whether you have a disability or not, you can do it. It’s trying to make them proud that mum is doing something.”

Cambridge United has not only opened a whole new community and a wealth of opportunities for Zoe but she is now also part of the England Women’s Blind Football Talent Pathway.

Cambridge United are one of 28 Football Club Community Organisations across the country that offer the programme, which is specifically developed for the needs of people in their local community, including those with both physical, mental and learning impairments.

How Keira’s love for Blackpool FC has been the catalyst to her development.

Blackpool FC super fan, Keira has developed her ability to express herself since attending the clubs Every Player Counts sessions.

Keira lives with AUTS2 syndrome but her passion and love for football and especially Blackpool FC has been the catalyst for her progress on and off the pitch.

Blackpool are part of the Every Player Counts programme which is funded by Wembley National Stadium Trust and EFL Trust.  Every Player Counts has, over the past five years, helped get over 13 000 people with a wide range of disabilities playing football – many for the first time.

Before she attended the Every Player Counts sessions Keira lacked confidence and would be reluctant to speak to others, her mum explains: Keira’s communication has definitely improved. She is more confident in speaking to the other participants. Look at before she was telling the participants about how she is going to see Blackpool away, when they play Birmingham at the end of this month. When we first came to the session’s she would never have been confident enough to say that.”

These thoughts are echoed by all that know Keira. Paul, Blackpool’s Community Engagement Officer said: “Out of all the participants I work with Keira is one of the most enthusiastic about Blackpool FC, she and her family are season ticket holders, and she loves seeing them play and talks about Blackpool’s results and fixtures when I see her at the Tuesday session… Her skills at football have improved greatly. We were practising a skill move the other day, the drag back turn, and Keira did it first time, something she would have found difficult when she first started.”

Keira will continue to attend the sessions and tell everyone about her beloved Blackpool FC.

Blackpool are one of 28 Football Club Community Organisations across the country that offer the programme, which is specifically developed for the needs of people in their local community, including those with both physical, mental, and learning impairments.

How Plymouth Argyle’s Every Player Counts session has given Cory the environment to succeed.

Argyle’s Ability Counts group has allowed Cory to develop from a shy 9-year-old to a confident, social 15-year-old teenager.

At 9 Cory was diagnosed with autism, learning difficulties, OCD, and anxiety where he struggled within social situations and the ability to process and regulate the changes in his day-to-day life.

Plymouth Argyle are part of the Every Player Counts programme which is funded by Wembley National Stadium Trust and EFL Trust.  Every Player Counts has, over the past five years, helped get over 13 000 people with a wide range of disabilities playing football – many for the first time .

Since his participation in the Junior Ability Counts football team at Argyle, he has gained confidence, friends and played for the Long-Term Player Development (LTPD) team. Cory has also widened his horizons by joining a mainstream football something that would have been hard to imagine before he started with Argyle.

His development has presented itself in numerous ways as since being involved at the Trust he has raised £2,000 for the Autism Association, something he felt passionately about raising awareness for and supporting the charity.

More so, he has gone on to complete his FA Refereeing qualification and now referees in the Devon Junior and Minor League every Saturday. As well as volunteering as a coach at the LTPD sessions.

His mum comments: “This is all thanks to the coaches that have supported Cory throughout playing in the Plymouth Argyle Ability Counts team.”

Cory is hoping to be given the chance to become an Sports Coaching Apprentice within the Community Trust when he leaves school next year.

Plymouth Argyle are one of 28 Football Club Community Organisations across the country that offer the programme, which is specifically developed for the needs of people in their local community, including those with both physical, mental and learning impairments.

HOW FOOTBALL IS BUILDING SELF ESTEEM AND MAKING EVERY PLAYER COUNT

Over 13,000 children, young people and adults with disabilities have been introduced to football through our Every Player Counts programme.

Today for International Day of Persons with Disabilities we be looking at some of the stories behind that statistics. The programme, which is co-funded by EFL Trust and Wembley National Stadium Trust (WNST), has now been running for 5 years and offers the benefits of playing football to people with a wide range of disabilities.

The stories we will showcase today are from people of differing ages and cover a range of disabilities. However, the common thread running each personal journey is of a struggle to find a way to fit in and how playing football has allowed each individual to build their confidence, self-esteem and form friendships. This in turn, transferred into their school, work and personal life, has opened up a range of opportunities.

28 EFL Club Community Organisations run Every Player Counts programmes that are tailored to the specific needs of their local community, covering a wide range of disability programmes including, but not restricted to, powerchair football, football for visual impairment, and learning difficulties. 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.

All this is possible thanks to Wembley National Stadium Trust who in 2016 made a £1.1m, donation over three year – what was their largest investment and their first England-wide grant. A further £500,000 in 2019, plus funding from the EFL Trust to include our Welsh league clubs, has enabled our CCOs, so far, to change the lives of 13,000 people.

Eleanor scores a full-time role with Reading FC Community Trust through the Kickstart Programme

Gaining a footstep into the professional workplace has been a process that has brought extraneous difficulties for young people, especially during the pandemic. For Eleanor Povey, this was no exception, however, after an opportunity arose with Reading FC Community Trust on a Kickstart placement, Eleanor made a great impression and  has now secured full-time employment there.

After graduating from University, Eleanor found herself struggling with the prospect of long-term unemployment, as she was unable to find a job in an environment, she was comfortable with, during the initial stages of the  pandemic last year. Eleanor’s luck changed upon stumbling across an opportunity to work as an Admin Officer at Reading FC Community Trust within the Kickstart programme.

The Kickstart programme is an initiative to help bring young people claiming universal credit, into the workplace. In recent times due to the pandemic, this has been more necessary than ever to the lives of many young people.

As we approach the last month of 2021, the EFL Trust are delighted that over 477 Kickstarter’s have been employed across our EFL Clubs and Community Organisations, with over 196 vacancies currently available. We are even prouder that over 90% of those young people completing an EFL Trust placement have gone into a positive employability destination such as a new full-time role or apprenticeship.

Eleanor Povey is currently at Reading FC Community Trust and is a shining example of why this programme is perfect in an industry with so many exciting opportunities. Starting her role initially as an Admin Officer, Eleanor gained exposure to a multitude of different areas, enabling her to attain different skills and develop her expertise.

Eleanor talked about her placement at Reading FC Community Trust:

During my role I supported the HR department and Administration team, working on a number of different activities such as: holiday entitlement, sick leave, contracts and staff training. I was also able to be involved in meetings with colleagues from the EFL Trust.”

“I thoroughly enjoy working for Reading FC Community Trust. The generosity and willingness of staff to share information and provide training has enabled me to comfortably take on more responsibility.”

After making an overwhelmingly positive impact, Eleanor was given a full-time role as Governance Lead at Reading FC Community Trust. Eleanor discussed her feelings about securing a full-time role:

I feel very lucky to have secured full-time employment at Reading FC Community Trust. All the staff are incredibly generous with their time and expertise, creating an environment for staff to thrive.”

“I am very grateful for the support and kindness they have shown me. Because of them I feel confident in my abilities to take on more responsibility and to continually develop my professional skillset.”

Eleanor thanked her Kickstart placement for her experiences at Reading FC Community Trust:

“Kickstart has helped me to gain confidence in my abilities through training, support and the opportunity to develop through new experiences. It provides you with an opportunity to increase your professional development by allowing you to undertake training in a chosen area with the support of experienced members of that field.”

With full-time employment secured, Eleanor now has more clarity about her professional career and is on the right path to success.

Click here to find out more about how Kickstart is impacting young people’s lives.

Blackpool Manager praises Community Trust

This week, Blackpool FC Community Trust were extremely proud to be named ‘Community Club of the Season’ at the Northwest Football Awards, facing tough opposition from other Northwest EFL Clubs.

Blackpool FC’s Manager, Neil Critchley, added to the success of the evening and was awarded ‘Manager of the Season’ after finishing his first full year at the club. Critchley was up against the likes of Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola and Bolton Wanderers, Ian Evatt.

Speaking about the awards, Neil Critchley made it clear what he thought about the Community Award:

“I think that’s a bigger award if I’m honest…I think it’s more important. The individual awards, they’re nice but there could be 50 people standing up there with me. It’s not about me, it’s about the club. The work Ash (Hackett) does with the Community Trust is unbelievable. I’ve never seen a team like that at a club before. That was really, really deserved because the club is about everyone in the area, it’s not just about what happens on the pitch. It’s more important the club plays a big part in what happens in the community off the pitch, because the club is there for the people of this town and the work, they do is incredible, so big congratulations to the team.”

Ashley Hackett, CEO at Blackpool FC Community Trust said,

“I am so proud of the impact that we have consistently provided to our community and none of it would have been possible without the hard work and commitment of our remarkable staff. With the support of Blackpool Football Club, we have been able to achieve great results regardless of the effects of the pandemic. Many of the areas we have developed will continue to be implemented in the future as it allows us to engage with and help more people in the most deprived town in England.”