Thousands of disabled children will have access to free football coaching for the first time.
Thanks to a game-changing coaching development programme, launched by McDonald’s Fun Football, more than 800 community coaches will be retrained to deliver grassroots disability football sessions to children in every part of the UK.
The first-of-its kind grassroots football learning programme built in partnership with BBC Children in Need, British Blind Sport, Kick It Out, and England Futsal, will increase qualified pan-disability and visual impairment coaches in the UK by 500%.
The programme was developed after research, led by BBC Children in Need and Sporting People, identified that nearly a third (29%) of disabled children are currently missing out on the benefits of sport.
It highlighted a clear need for investment into better disability football coach education and learning to remove unnecessary barriers faced by families to access football.
To kick start the programme over 80 Fun Football coaches attended the inaugural education development day to partake in practical and theory sessions, led by British Blind Sport, Kick It Out, and England Futsal, covering how to tackle unconscious bias, adapting sessions for children with visual impairment and how the fundamentals of Futsal can be used in Pan-Disability sessions.
Joining coaches on the day were former Paralympian and current England CP Assistant Coach, Jack Rutter, Chelsea Women's manager Emma Hayes and Tottenham under-18s coach, Jermain Defoe (pictured from left to right above).
“McDonald’s Fun Football is not just about kicking a ball in a goal – it’s about showing children there is a place for them and building a sense of community and confidence,” said Emma Hayes, Chelsea Women’s Manager.
“There are clear gaps in the education offered to grassroots coaches when it comes to supporting players with additional needs and that is exactly why days like today and the ongoing development McDonald’s Fun Football will provide their coaching network is so important.
“Football is game for everyone and any child who attends their local Fun Football session should be able to go out on to the pitch. We must do everything we can to remove any barrier faced at the grassroots level – and the starting point of that is investing in the people that are tasked with delivering sessions.
“We have seen first-hand how the women’s game has benefited from increased investment at all levels and this is following the same approach to removing the barriers faced by families when trying to access disability football.”
In 2024, over 500,000 children will be provided with access to free McDonald’s Fun Football sessions in more than 1,500 locations, including the addition of a new wave of specific pan-disability and visual impairment sessions. The sessions are all designed to allow children aged 5-11 to participate, no matter what their ability, alongside fully qualified coaches.
“What McDonald’s Fun Football is doing is massive,” said Jack Rutter, Paralympian and McDonald’s Fun Football Ambassador.
“They’ve created new qualifications and are embarking on a journey to upskill coaches nationwide. This will create a domino effect and it can only be a good thing for the grassroots game especially when it comes to the long-term growth of competitive Para Football.
“It really shows that football can truly be for all and with McDonald’s Fun Football it is more accessible than ever before.”
Registration for the first wave of free sessions open on Wednesday March 13th with sessions kicking off in early April, for more information head to www.mcdonald’s.co.uk/football or follow @FunFootballUK on X (formally Twitter) and Instagram.