England Blind Football training at St. George's Park.

Disability football in Greater Manchester

Matt Wood
This month’s spotlight #MCRForAll is highlighting disability football in Greater Manchester.

This month’s spotlight #MCRForAll is highlighting disability football in Greater Manchester. So far during #MCRForAll, we have seen at first-hand all the great work that is going on and the growing number of opportunities available within the area.

Disability football has developed over the past 10 years nationally and has experienced exponential growth over the last 2 years. Growing from small beginnings, with very few opportunities around the country, there are now a whole host of clubs, leagues and sessions for individuals with a range of disabilities. This has had a positive effect within communities with more people able to play the game, as well as becoming more convenient for parents and carers as they spend less time travelling to remote sessions.

In Manchester, we have a vast number of opportunities available, from the age of 8 to open age football, disability-specific and PAN disability football (which incorporates all disabilities). There is now almost one session in every local authority in Greater Manchester, showing the exponential growth in the region. 

Players accessing disability football often start within schools, sampling the game in a recreational setting. In recent years, relationships have dramatically developed between organisations and schools to provide opportunities for young people and build this into the school curriculum. A great example is the work done by CITC, who run a school partnership with GM Inclusion Group to give children their first taste of disability football and signpost them to their local grassroots teams, where they can play more regular, competitive football.

In addition, non-disability specific clubs in mainstream leagues are being educated on how they can support the growth of the game too, either signposting enquiries to existing disability clubs or potentially offering an opportunity within their own club. This month we have a Coaching Disabled Footballer Course which educates coaches on helping their coaching sessions be more inclusive, the course is taking place on Sunday 28th April at Eccles College, please visit contact us to book a place on the course.

As well as PAN disability opportunities, there are now also impairment-specific teams in Greater Manchester. These include cerebral-palsy-specific clubs, with two of the biggest being Chadderton Park FC and CP United. Playing opportunities also exist for the VI (visually impaired), blind players, as well as Dwarfism sessions and Down syndrome specific programmes, like those run by Moorside Rangers in Salford. Manchester United Foundation have just started a new PAN Disability Girls session on Friday evenings, which is an exciting new offer to help grow the Disability girls game. 

The Greater Manchester Ability Counts League is the county’s main disability league and has become a key partner of Manchester FA’s work within disability football. The league gives children and adults an opportunity to represent local, recognisable clubs whilst playing disability football. The league is solely run by committed volunteers and last year was successful at the Greater Sports awards, winning the inaugural Greater Manchester Mayor’s award.  Without the fantastic work of the committee members who run the league there would be less provision for those to take part, the committee are a real credit to grassroots football in Manchester.  The league offers opportunities for pan-disability teams to play on a fortnightly basis at Salford Sports village at both U16’s and Open Age Adult. Representative of their growth and enthusiasm for growth of the game, the league are looking to run a U12 division for the first-time next season.  

The future looks bright for disability football in Greater Manchester, as more provision is delivered every week. Clubs are continually looking at ways to engage more players, regardless of disability and leagues, such as the Greater Manchester Ability Counts League, continue to grow and offer regular opportunities for players.

If you’d like to know more on disability football in Greater Manchester, please contact us on 01612251966 or email steven.edwards@manchesterfa.com