SAFC launches disabled football scheme

Sunderland AFC has joined an initiative giving people with virtually any disability the chance to play football.

Sunday, 8th December 2019, 3:00 pm
Updated Sunday, 8th December 2019, 4:31 pm

The club’s charitable arm, the Foundation of Light, is holding sessions called Every Player Counts at the Beacon of Light each Thursday between 1.30pm and 2.30pm.

The free-to-use scheme is part of a national initiative, funded by Wembley National Stadium Trust and the English Football League (EFL).

It is aimed at attracting disabled people aged 16 and over to play football and other sports.

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Footballers at the Every Player Counts programme at the Beacon of Light. Coach Jamie Wilson is front left beside Stuart Goshawk, CEO of Wembley National Stadium Trust.

Sunderland is one of 28 clubs to back the programme. Each club’s charity receives £10,000 per year for the next two years to fund the initiative.

Key to Sunderland’s programme is coach Jamie Wilson who is hearing impaired and started at the foundation aged 17 in 2008.

Since then had worked his way through to being a sports development officer, and has been working with people with various disabilities for 10 years.

Jamie, now 29, said: “It goes from people with mild learning disabilities, to people in wheelchairs, visual impairment, hearing impairment, cerebral palsy, autism, Asperger’s. We work with pretty much anyone with a disability. It gives the opportunity to these guys to play and be part of football.

Action from the Every Player Counts disability football programme at the Beacon of Light.

“Hopefully we’re going to keep progressing it and make it bigger and bigger; really open it up to anyone with a disability, so we can all enjoy playing sports at different levels.

“We do a lot of different sports; basketball, badminton, tennis and more. We’ve got loads of different programmes for people to join in with. We’ve always got the support of the club and the foundation, as well as the staff and the wider community.

“We want everyone to feel like they’re part of the team. That’s what the Foundation of Light is all about.”

Stewart Goshawk, CEO of Wembley National Stadium Trust, said: “The last time I visited Sunderland, the Beacon of Light wasn’t here. So it’s the first time I’ve seen it and it’s absolutely brilliant. It’s a community hub and clearly welcomes everyone. It’s just fantastic.”

Every Player Counts disability football programme at the Beacon of Light, coached by Jamie Wilson.

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Action from the Every Player Counts disability football programme at the Beacon of Light.