''Disability football, football's biggest secret.''

One of The Football Association’s (FA) main goals is to make, ‘Football for All’. To get more people playing the game. Protect and improve facilities. To provide a safe and fun experience of football for all. Disability football is a massive part of this remit. The FA is investing heavily into improving disability football and making the sport more accessible for all. 

One example of this is through the Disability Work Force Fund (DWF). Across the first two years, the DWF programme saw the number of disability teams increase to 2,000, the creation of over 600 centres and 96 disability football education courses delivered to 1,500 coaches. Prior to the third year, the number of disability specific football development officers has expanded from 26 to 43. This year, The FA has set a new key performance indicator to track the number of active centres and achieve regular participation across all County FAs.

The importance of a programme like this is emphasised by Wendy Booth, National Disability Development Officer at The FA, when she explains, 

“The DWF investment has been massively important to society. It epitomises the FA’s ‘For All’ ethos in ensuring that we’re developing opportunities for everyone. It is enabling us to work towards making sure anyone with a disability, regardless of impairment type, age, gender, location or ability has the chance to play.”

The FA has been using Upshot since 2017 and are currently going into their fourth season. From a funder’s platform, The FA uses Upshot to report to the National Game Board and the Disability Football Committee, helping influence future investment into this area of the game. The DWF was initially a three-year programme. We used Upshot reporting to showcase the impact it was having on society and on disability football to apply for further investment and ensure the programme was continued. 

The FA was also able to use Upshot to compare all the data from the various County FAs across the country. They did this to find out how they were performing against targets. Wendy Booth described this as,

“Massive in helping us understand what the National picture of recreational disability football looks like and recognising which county officers need support. It also makes it a lot easier to report on the progress of the programme. We always describe disability football as footballs biggest secret. Still you talk to people and they don’t even know there is an opportunity for people with disabilities to play football. It is really nice to be able to demonstrate the progress and impact.”

Each individual County FA involved in the programme has access to an Upshot account. They are able to oversee all the recreational disability sessions that are being delivered across their region. For example, each recreational centre use Upshot to record all the participants that are attending the sessions, track their attendance and communicate regularly with them. This helps the County FA capture the data and see what sessions are being successful, what ones need promotion and target the areas that need improvement. 

We recently met up with Jonathan Coles, the Disability Football Development Officer for Berks & Bucks County FA. Upshot gave Berks & Bucks the opportunity to gain more funding through the thorough data that they can now provide via the system. For example, in Slough, they are running two learning disability sessions, one for adults and one for young people. Furthermore, they have gained some private funding, outside of what they would get through the DWF, to put on more disability sessions in the area. 

Moreover, Berks & Bucks have a relationship with three professional clubs, Wycombe Wanderers (example in video below), Reading FC and MK Dons, one of the largest disability affiliated clubs in the country. These clubs all run disability sessions across the County. Wycombe Wanderers run three turn-up-and-play sessions and have access to Berks & Bucks Upshot account to input the data and complete the registers. 

Jonathan Coles outlines the working relationship Berks & Bucks has with Upshot. He explores how we have reduced their admin work and given them an opportunity to spend more time out on the field increasing participation rates. Jonathan expands on this below,

“As part of the wider disability football programme that we have, Upshot is part of that and has generally helped us double participation in the region. Any programme or help that reduces that time spent in front of a computer and allows us to get out on the field, talking to people and creating partnerships, is fantastic.” 

For more information on Upshot please email us on info@upshot.org.uk or phone us on 020 7842 8899.