Funded by The FA and Sport England (through National Lottery funding) the Football Foundation has launched the Return to Disability Football Fund. This new fund will provide grants of up to £1,000 to support disabled people getting back to playing football following the pandemic.
Disabled people and individuals with long-term health conditions have been more adversely affected by Covid-19 than the wider population. This has directly impacted on disability football participation rates. The new Return to Disability Football Fund has been launched to help tackle this challenge, and will be assessed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Activity levels among disabled people, and football participation, had been increasing in the 5 years running up to the pandemic. Earlier this year, the Activity Alliance found that 78% of disabled people said they would like to do more physical activity. However, 54% were worried about leaving their home to be active as a result of Covid-19.
The Return to Disability Football Fund, an FA and Sport England initiative drawing on National Lottery funding, will target £300,000 through the Football Foundation at clubs and organisations that had an FA affiliated disability team during the 2019/20 or 2020/21 seasons to help them restart or deliver new activity.
Successful applicants will be able to use the grants to:
• Fund changes required to adhere to published Government and FA guidance;
• Buy additional sports equipment to minimise sharing while delivering activities;
• Provide safety and sanitation to keep equipment clean;
• Cover staffing costs associated with helping restart or provide new activity;
• Afford extra facility hire costs to create more space for players and volunteers;
• Pay for coach education courses e.g. qualifying coaches for new teams;
• Train club volunteers to ensure they meet current guidelines;
• Support communication to promote and reinforce safety protocols.
Football Foundation CEO, Robert Sullivan, commented: “Understandably, we’ve seen a significant drop off in the number of disabled teams and people playing football during the pandemic. As we emerge into a new phase of living with Covid-19, this is a critical moment for football and promoting physical activity across the nation.
“We know disabled people are keen to get playing again, but we also recognise they have different needs and concerns compared to the wider population. It’s really important we help them return confidently to playing football. It’s one of the best sports for them to get involved in because it offers a range of benefits across physical health, mental wellbeing and social connections. We’re delighted that our Partners are investing in this fund to ensure disability football gets going again and grows within our communities.”
The Return to Disability Football fund is the latest in a series of additional funding measures launched by The Premier League, The FA and Government’s Football Foundation to help grassroots football deal with the impacts of Covid-19.
In March this year, it launched the Return to Football Fund that provided £2.1m to support clubs return to football or activities aimed at bringing new players to the game. It also set up a Grass Pitch Maintenance Fund and Small Grants Scheme to help clubs pay for all of the essential kit and facilities they needed to start playing again.
For more information about all of the funding available to grassroots football clubs, visit the Football Foundation website.
 - The impact of COVID-19 on disabled people: Activity Alliance summary of secondary research, January 2021