West Bromwich Albion captain Jed Wallace welcomed Baggies and England blind footballer Eesa Amjid to the club’s training ground, to pass on some inspiring words before the2023 IBSA World Games.

Eesa and the Para Lions faced Germany, Argentina and China in the group stages before beating Mexico in play-off game to end their tournament on a high.

Eesa’s discussed with the WBA skipper his remarkable journey in blind football so far – from taking up the sport as a nine-year-old with The Albion Foundation, to scoring for England as a teenager.

After introducing Jed to blind football and putting the skipper through his paces with a blindfold on, Eesa spoke about his excitement for the IBSA Games and his bronze-winning experience at the IBSA EURO last summer.

Hosted in Birmingham, the 2023 IBSA World Games, which took place in August, was  a multi-sport event for blind and partially sighted athletes.

West Bromwich Albion and The Albion Foundation were represented by Eesa, along with Selina Prieto in Women’s blind football.

The Foundation hope to have even more England stars in the future with sessions running for children with visual impairment during term-time as well as weekly sessions for adults to train and compete with their Championship and Premiership Blind Football teams that play within the National Blind League.


Every Player Counts with Northampton Town Community Trust turns Loyd’s world around.

Having struggled both physically and mentally, Loyd joined Northampton Town Community Trust’s Every Player Counts programme. The programme turned out to have such an impact on him and his ability to turn his life around, he now volunteers on the Trust’s disability programme.

“Back in 2012 I was informed about Northampton Town’s involvement with community projects via The Bridge. I was introduced to Russell Lewis and a weekly football training session.

“I became heavily involved with this project over four years, participating in the weekly training sessions, tournaments and with the creation of an 11 a side squad that participated in weekly evening league games. I thoroughly enjoyed all of this but unfortunately due to a change of shifts with my full-time job, I was sad to say my goodbyes to Russell and the team mates who had become friends.

“Juggling full time work and hobbies became increasingly difficult with life becoming busier and I found myself doing less exercise, becoming less sociable and my mental health crashing with reoccurring bouts of depression and anxiety. When I first joined, I was in the middle of a long episode of depression and anxiety and my involvement with football helped me to cope and recognise signs and symptoms on how to deal with it. However fast forward to 2022 and I found myself overweight, not exercising and feeling like my mental health was declining. So, I decided to fall back on the coping mechanisms I learnt from my past involvement and decided to make a positive change.

“I started to conduct research on the Northampton Town Football Club website and read up on the community projects that the club were involved in. Due to working at Northampton General Hospital, I work shifts, but Every Player Counts sessions fell perfectly on my day off. So, I sent a message and enquired if this is something I would be able to attend and made my way to the session. It had been several years since I last attended a session like this, so with my current state of mind I was even more anxious and nervous. However as soon as I arrived, I saw welcoming faces from years gone by welcoming me back and I felt like I hadn’t been away. Russell introduced me to all the new members, and I absolutely loved it. I was hooked again.

“The weekly session of Every Player Counts gave me the focus to be mindful of what I ate and exercise that I could do during the week to improve my session when I played football. For those couple of hours once a week, I forgot any worries and everything else except football. It was amazing and I felt so positive and happy following every session. I had forgotten how much I love playing and how football can offer so much more with opportunities to meet new people and the personal effects it can have both mentally and physically. I was making healthier choices and feeling great.

“I wanted to be involved as much as possible and enquired if there were any other sessions I could join or help with. So, I was invited to attend additional Every Player Counts sessions and was introduced to NTFC’s Multi Disability teams. This was a personal changing point. These sessions have led to opportunities that I am so grateful for. I have now started my coaching journey with the club, attended various training courses and taken responsibility for coaching teams in Multi Disability games, against various BOBI league teams and Premiership clubs in a host of disability tournaments and festivals.

“Involvement with NTFC community projects over the past year has given me opportunities to attend various disability workshops and training courses which have led to various voluntary coaching opportunities. Including coaching alongside Russell and a small team of NTFC coaches to help implement new blind football training sessions. Working up close with a small team of highly experienced professional coaches and blind participants is an amazing opportunity I am grateful for, both personally and professionally.

“I have accepted that I may always have mental health issues but projects like Every Player Counts, coaching and volunteering with the NTFC multi disability teams has provided me with future learning and development opportunities that have given me the tools and confidence to deal with various challenges. In the past year I have struggled and going forward I’m sure I will at times, but my involvement in these projects has helped shaped the way I deal with my mental and physical health.

Football has given me the confidence, drive, and ambition to better myself. I am now so excited to see where my coaching journey with NTFC will take me.

“Thank you, Russell, the community projects and Northampton Town Football Club.”

Loyd Mitchell, Every Player Counts Participant

Jacob volunteering with Swindon Town FC Community Foundation after attending their Refugee sessions.

At just 14 years old, Jacob left his home in Sudan and made the journey to the United Kingdom, a journey that would take him 3 years. Jacob describes this ordeal as “extremely daunting and scary.”

Having now been in the UK for 2 years, Jacob is 18 years old and has been volunteering with Swindon Town FC Community Foundation with ambition to establish a career in sport.

His role as a Facility Staff Member is based at ‘Foundation Park’, a place he knows well from his own participation.

For Jacob, Swindon Town FC Community Foundation and football were the two things that provided him support and stability when he arrived.

With no means of employment, and a stipend that doesn’t allow for leisure activities, Jacob and others are faced with long hours of boredom.

One outlet that is available to them is sport, and recognising this, the Foundation has given refugees the opportunity to attend coached sessions and play matches using the Foundation’s facilities.

The weekly sessions average around 20 participants, and those who are regularly committed have also been able to form a team. The Foundation also assist the participants with obtaining any kit that may be required in order to remove any barriers to participation they may be faced with.

Jacob loves attending weekly sessions at the Swindon Town FC Community Hub ‘Foundation Park’ which sits under the shadow of STFC home stadium The County Ground.

Swindon Town FC Foundation has given Jacob the opportunity to be active, meet new people, and aspire to pursue a career in something he loves.

Extra Time Hubs with Wigan Athletic Community Trust has been a lifesaver for David and his wife Carys

Extra Time Hubs with Wigan Athletic Community Trust has become the highlight of David and his wife and carer, Carys’ week.

Before joining the sessions, David struggled with illness and was in and out of the hospital regularly until he, unfortunately, had to have his leg amputated. Shortly after, David was also diagnosed with mixed dementia.

With Carys taking on the role of his carer, the pair were adjusting to David’s condition and his new life in a wheelchair. While dealing with the adjustment, they found themselves increasingly isolated and simply unable to meet new people or engage socially.

That was until they were referred to the Extra Time Programme by a Community Link worker to help them re-engage with the community while also giving Carys a chance to relax and unwind while knowing that David still had support around him.

The pair have become a staple of the Extra Time Hub at Wigan Youth Zone ever since joining their first session. The session has become “the highlight of their week” while enabling them to build new friendships, increase their mobility and gain a new lease on life.

The Extra Time Programme, originally created by the EFL Trust and funded in partnership with Wigan Athletic Supporters Club, hosts weekly Extra Time Hubs at Wigan Youth Zone and Leigh Miners with the aim of tackling loneliness and social isolation amongst our elderly community.

The Hubs enable retired and semi-retired people make the most of their free time and enjoy doing the things they want to do. With friendships, support and being the socially active forefront of the Hubs aim, participants decide what they wish to take in with various activities on offer from quizzes to walking football.

Speaking about her enjoyment of the sessions, Carys said:

“Before coming to the Extra Time Hub, he [David] was very poorly for a couple of years, in and out of the hospital, and then unfortunately, he had to have his leg amputated.

“And then he was diagnosed with mixed dementia. We were just getting used to the fact that he was now in a wheelchair, but we weren’t seeing people. It was just impossible to do it at that particular time.

“A Community Link worker came to the house and suggested that we come here. So she made a referral to Christine [WACT Extra Time Hub Activator], and within a week, we came here.

“From the minute we came in, you could sense there was a lovely atmosphere. We were greeted by Christine, smiling. We were introduced to different people, and we’ve been treated as we hadn’t been for quite some time, to be honest.

“And my husband has found that he can move around and do things, there’s space here for him to do things and he’s really enjoyed doing the activities.

“As far as my husband and I are concerned, it’s been a lifesaver.

“It’s the highlight of the week for us. We’ve been making new friends with people as well.

“Everybody’s so friendly. They can’t do enough to help us.”

Her thoughts were echoed by her husband David, who added:

“I’m used to doing things myself, and I can’t do them now, so I get a bit frustrated, but I try and let it go and carry on doing what I can, and I’m enjoying myself, really.

“All the staff, they’re helpful, they’ll explain everything,

“I enjoy myself, and I look forward to coming every Tuesday, and I feel better for it.”

Adrian Bradley the EFL Trust’s Health and Wellbeing lead, explains, “With Extra Time Hubs we set out to do something different. Activities for Older people tended to be small coffee morning or bingo sessions. We want to create a social community of people in their retirement years who meet regularly to socialise and to do the things they enjoy, not what we tell them they should enjoy. We focus on the social side of the hub and help people to feel better by reducing their social isolation and loneliness. By getting people more socially active we nudge them towards more a physically active lifestyles – it’s health by stealth.”

Uwais one of many unsung volunteering heroes at Blackburn Rovers Community Trust

Blackburn Rovers Community Trust has a strong team of volunteers who support the charity to deliver and provide invaluable support to their local community 365 days per year.

Volunteers provide valuable support to numerous projects and initiatives, from engaging with young people on the Trust’s Neighbourhood Youth Offer to being a person to talk to at the health and well-being sessions.

One important volunteer role that that is not often visible is the Trust’s board of Trustees. The board of Trustees play an important role in helping deliver Blackburn Rovers Community Trust’s strategy within the local area and beyond.  Blackburn Rovers Community Trust have a dedicated and hardworking board of Trustees, including Uwais Patel, a qualified Chartered Accountant who has worked in audit and advisory, before joining an insurance broker where he currently holds the post of Group Chief Operating Officer.

Uwais helps BRCT with Community Inclusion and he assists the board of Trustees with key decisions that impact the present and future of the charity.

Speaking during Volunteers Week 2023, Uwais said: “I have lived in Blackburn all my life and I was brought up as a Rovers fan. It meant that I always wanted to give back to the community and help overcome barriers that I faced.

“Having seen the work, the Community Trust had done previously and my passion for the football club, I really wanted to get involved and give back to the community.

“I am lucky enough now to work for a company that also sponsors the football club and we have supported many initiatives such as the Ewood Express that helps thousands of people in the borough.

“I am incredibly proud to represent the Community Trust. It is great that I can listen to the public and know we have the both the facilities and fantastic team in place running the day-to-day operations to make a positive difference.”

Volunteers’ Week is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering in their communities.

“Community focus was a key part of my life when I was growing up,” explained Uwais, when asked why he wanted to volunteer to be a Trustee.  It is also one of the key virtues of my religion, Islam. Giving back to the community gives us a sense of gratitude and by being privileged enough to be in this position as a Trustee and to see the impact the Community Trust is making on so many people’s lives helps me accomplish my personal goals too.

“I am a lifelong Blackburn Rovers supporter and to have the chance to give back to my town, I have never seen it as a volunteering role but almost a hobby that I enjoy doing. The Community Trust has made a huge difference on my life by allowing me to make a difference. However, more importantly, it is making a difference on thousands of individuals of all ages, genders, and backgrounds.

“Without the great staff we have in place, none of this would be even possible. You can see on a matchdays the difference it makes but the Community Trust is active 365 days per year supporting people.”


A development journey: Hannah Jones and Rotherham United Community Sports Trust.

Hannah’s passion for being a leader, an innovator, and a mentor to females in sports stems from her own experiences. Through, her club Rotherham United, she has been able to pursue a career focused on her desire to better the experiences of others.

She said: “I currently hold a position within the FA Leadership Academy, which is designed to develop people as leaders, to plan, deliver and develop a project to impact the football community and the wider football community. Due to my own experiences, I focused my project on developing females and female footballers, giving them a sense of belonging in football, as well as producing and recognising talent.”

Hannah attended Rotherham United Community Sports Trust college programme before enrolling onto their FdSc Sport Coaching and Development run in partnership with University of South Wales.

With an abundance of experience and skills in numerous programmes the Trust offers from education to health and wellbeing, Hannah is an individual that is focused on providing and empowering every participant, colleague, friend she encounters especially females in sport.

She explains: “The development of females within a sporting environment is something that I do have concerns for and am passionate about in terms of developing. By providing this opportunity to our females will create an inclusive, welcoming, and quality experience.”

The USW course has allowed Hannah to feel a sense of belonging. More so, it has allowed Hannah to develop and produce ideas to inspire the next generation that could lead to a huge, successful future for women in sport whether that be Hannah’s influence on them both on and off the pitch.

The University of South Wales allows students to gain practical experience in their desired nature of work, whilst allowing for a blended learning approach where students have both face-to face and online learning. The courses which are hosted at your local football club has a huge emphasis on gaining real world learning through placements with students only having to attend the University for short residential periods.

She comments: “The whole experience will give the opportunity to network with like-minded individuals; students like yourself, perhaps past students, and those who work within the sporting industry. This will allow us to be our best selves, unite as one; acting together as one within the movement where we can strive to empower each other to realise potential and develop.”

It is evident that Hannah has the ability to inspire change through her selfless desire to improve and aid those around her. With already a plethora of strings to her bow, Hannah’s aspirations have no limit.

She said: “After completion of the 2-year course with USW, I hope to enrol onto the Sports Coaching and Development top-up degree, after which I would like to enrol onto a PGCE to follow the path into sports teaching, school and education. Alongside this I wish to continue my current coaching path; I’m soon to complete my FA Level 1, after which I hope to progress up the ladder in coaching badges (across multiple sports) and potentially begin my refereeing experience.”

Click here to find out more about the degree 

Young Blackburn Rovers fan George doesn’t let his cerebral palsy stop him from being active

“He gets stuck in; he gives everything a try and there is nothing that he doesn’t want to do”

Young Blackburn Rovers supporter, George, has recently started in reception at Avondale, in Darwen, a partner primary school of Blackburn Rovers Community Trust.

George has cerebral palsy, and he has difficulty maneuvering himself around independently. However, this doesn’t diffuse his enthusiasm to participate in the EYFS gymnastics sessions run by Blackburn Rovers Community Trust at his school on a weekly basis.

The sessions focus on helping the children travel with both their hands and feet, with around 30 students aged 4-5 from Avondale participating each week.

George’s one-to-one, Zoe, said: “George has come on a lot, he gets stuck in and gives everything a try.

“When he first started his limbs were very tight and I do physio sessions with him daily. He wears splints, not for the PE sessions that Blackburn Rovers Community Trust or we provide, but his flexibility has come on. George’s balance is getting better, and he’s benefitted massively from all the sessions he has available to him.

“He has cerebral palsy, it’s his lower limbs so it predominantly affects his lower half

“George is a massive Rovers fan and every time we come, he says ‘I love Blackburn Rovers’ so it’s great to connect the two and he knows the familiarity of the club so it’s great that he can do sessions.”

Each week, the sessions follow a different engaging theme to allow the children to use their imagination, and just recently, the session was focused on superheroes and animals.

The skills Blackburn Rovers Community Trust’s staff teach include balancing both on and off apparatus, jumping and landing safely, transferring weight from one limb to another and rolling.

George is always looking to get involved with each activity put in front of him, and always has a huge smile on his face.

Sarah, SENCO lead at Avondale, said: “George is a resilient little boy who will give everything a go. He always has a smile on his face, and we include him in everything we can.

“He has physiotherapy sessions every day at school to ensure that his muscles are getting stretched, and we are trying to build that up. He is making progress.

“George loves football and he loves Blackburn Rovers. It is good he is encouraged to have a go at anything, and he looks forward to the sessions Blackburn Rovers Community Trust runs.

George’s dad concluded by saying: “George loves to be active and never lets his disabilities hold him back. He’s a big Rovers fan and always tells the family how much he loves doing PE with Rovers.”

Every Player Counts with Wigan Athletic Community Trust has given Carl a sense of belonging in his local community.

Carl presents a mild learning disability and also expresses his struggles with mental health, but the Trust Every Player Counts session has given Carl a sense of belonging in his community. As well as this the sessions provide him an opportunity to play the game he loves whilst keeping fit and encouraging social interaction.

He commented on why he enjoyed the session: “Come enjoy the game, get an hour out of the house, enjoy the session. Get to know everyone and become part of the team.”

The Every Player Counts programme which was funded by Wembley National Stadium Trust for 6 years has helped 12,498 people with a wide range of disabilities play football – many for the first time. The programme was delivered across 40 EFL Club Community Organisations, with around 19,000 Every Player Counts sessions being provided.

He is now 36 years old and has been involved in Wigan Athletic Community Trust provisions since the age of 16 where he participated in Premier League Kicks sessions. Carl’s involvement with the Trust speaks volumes as to the benefit it has on the local community.

Carl is a big character within his team, and his passion for the sport shines through. He even attends the sessions if he is injured to offer his support and encouragement to other players.

The big reason for Carl’s continued engagement with the Trust is not only the fulfilment it provides but also gives him the reason to leave home.

He explains: “It’s got me more involved. If I’m at home I’m going to be bored so I just want to play football on Wednesdays. It gets me out of the house so I enjoy coming here.”

Wigan Community Trust has played a huge role in Carl’s life, and he has now expressed a desire to volunteer at other programmes facilitated by the Trust to give back in the way the Trust has given to him.

How Bolton Wanderers LGBTQ+ Youth Club is breaking down barriers

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is a key focus for Bolton Wanderers and Bolton Wanderers in the Community (BWitC), and the club’s LGBTQ+ Youth Club has been hugely successful in creating a safe space for people to be themselves and making a difference in the local area.

Launched in 2018, the LGBTQ+ Youth Club focuses on hate crime, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and offers young LGBTQ+ people and allies aged 13-17 a safe space to socialise, meet others they identify with and open up about important topics and issues they may face.

Beth Warriner, BWitC Programme Lead, plays a key part in the weekly running of the Youth Club and is delighted with the positive impact it is having in tackling exclusion and hate crime in the Bolton Community.

“About 50% of the people attending the community work we deliver around the Bolton area were identifying as LGBTQ+,” she told The EFL.

“They expressed an interest in wanting their own night as part of the Youth Club. We looked at what we could do to support them, so initially the LGBTQ+ Youth Club was formed on a trial basis to see what the turnout would be and it was hugely successful.”

The Youth Club – delivered in partnership with Bolton Council’s Play and Youth Service – has been running for almost six years, with the group meeting on a weekly basis in Farmworth, Bolton, and once a month, 9-12-year-olds are also invited to join the session.

Beth added: “We advertised it in schools, sent flyers out and got a fantastic response. It’s been running every Tuesday night for over five years now and it’s been really successful. Having a separate Youth Club night for members of the LGBTQ+ community gives young people a safe space to chat and meet others who are also LGBTQ+.

“The staff area LGBTQ+ as well which really makes a difference to the young people, because they’re able to support and guide them through any tricky life situations.”

The Youth Club participants also work with BWitC and Greater Manchester Police on education around hate crime, with the youngsters taking part in hate crime training as well as becoming hate crime ambassadors and helping educate others on what hate crime is and how to report it.

“It was reported back by the young people that the hate crime training wasn’t very user-friendly or interactive for their age groups.

“So we applied for some funding locally and managed to get some hate crime training delivered that was specifically tailored to young people. As ambassadors, the participants were then able to go out and deliver that to other Youth Clubs and schools around Bolton.

“It was a really impactful and empowering experience for those young people and really gave them all a lesson on the importance of hate crime.”

Hate crime training has also extended to all staff members at Bolton Wanderers and Bolton Wanderers Community Trust, with the University of Bolton Stadium now also becoming a third party hate crime reporting centre.

Such is the success of the LGBTQ+ Youth Club, BWitC are also looking to introduce a second weekly session as they look to reach and benefit more young people of the LGBTQ+ community.

“It’s certainly growing in terms of how we’re able to expand the provision,” Beth concluded.

“Four of our participants recently started university, most of whom joined us on our first-ever session back in 2018. We’ve had the privilege of watching these young people grow and develop into confident and resilient adults.

“There are endless young people who will benefit from this, we’ve seen that first hand.

“I’ve been to schools that have LGBTQ+ sessions and they have 40 or 50 attendees, so there is definitely a real need for the support and if we can help benefit these young people with our Youth Clubs then it’s great.”

Proud Terriers Goes From Strength To Strength Ahead Of Huddersfield Town’s Dedicated Rainbow Laces Fixture

“I really want to help in the fight to eradicate homophobia from football,” says Ryan Mather. In 2020, we gave our platform to Ryan a life-long Huddersfield Town fan and very ‘Proud Terrier’ to tell his story in his own words. At the time Ryan was also a first-year student on the University of South Wales and EFL Trust Foundation Degree in Community Football Coaching and Development with Huddersfield Town Foundation.

Ryan has since progressed having completed his Foundation Degree earlier this year and is now in the process of completing the Top Up Degree.

Ryan explains how proud Terriers came about, “A few years back at a Huddersfield Town vs Brighton game, which was our Rainbow Laces fixture, there was homophobic chanting from the Town end to the Brighton fans. This was the most uncomfortable I have ever felt at a game and this incident left me feeling upset, angry, and so disappointed. Being made to feel like this has led to me having several panic attacks and has impacted my mental health. If I’m feeling this, then others within our community will feel the same. “

“I made it my mission ultimately to create a culture of inclusion in football and develop more of an accepting atmosphere throughout the ground and the community. My starting point was to create a real identity for the group and came up with ‘Proud Terriers’. I started with a logo and then created a Twitter page for the group. At the time I already knew someone at the Football Club and so I reached out to him to tell him about my ideas and to see how he could support us and the Club have been really supportive.”

There has also been support from Huddersfield Town Club legend, Andy Booth who has become a Proud Terriers ambassador. This has seen the initiative grow from strength to strength. Andy works within the supporter’s services and is the frontman of getting ideas off the ground from appearing in the club programme, to meeting players.

Ryan said: “He’s been a really incredible ally to us and one I will always be grateful for to have someone I looked up to growing up when he played for the club is surreal.”

This has enabled Proud Terriers to be a connecting partner with many local colleges and Huddersfield Town Women which has continued to enhance the football is for everyone messaging to a wider, diverse audience.

More so, social media has been powerful in Ryan’s upwards trajectory with his Instagram and Twitter followers doubling since their creation in 2020. Consequently, Proud Terriers now has its own merchandise available with Ryan and his team handing out laces, badges and leaflets at Huddersfield Towns dedicated Rainbow Laces fixture against Millwall on Saturday 29th October.

“I am a big Huddersfield Town fan and I have been all my life. I am an openly gay football fan and I’ve witnessed homophobia and really wanted to establish a movement to inspire a new generation of fans and create a culture in which homophobia doesn’t exist. There still is a way to go but with Proud Terriers we’ve made a great start of the journey.”

You can find out more by following Proud Terriers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @ProudTerriers or email Ryan and the team at [email protected].