Disability football hits new heights

“Every Player Counts” has been WNST’s flagship disability football programme for the past three years – working in close partnership with the EFL Trust, to support EFL Club Community Organisations to deliver a host of footballing activities for disabled people of all ages, abilities and impairments. In total, 26 CCOs – from Plymouth to Bradford, Southend to Wigan – have been involved at some point in the programme, most for the full duration.

The fantastic news is that at the end of the three year period, monitoring data submitted by the CCOs have shown that more than 11,000 individual participants have taken part in these activities at some point, with many being regular players, coming along time and time again.

The exact figure of 11,182 includes some 2,376 who came along to one of the projects for the first time in 2018/19. It is a great testament to the CCOs and their staff that they have continued to explore new service delivery options and to attract a host of new players.

Here is just one of the hundreds of examples, we know about of how football really does have the power to change lives:


Aaron has been attending EPC sessions for about 18 months and started out being very wary of these new surroundings, people and activities. Despite his love of football, the environment at his mainstream school did not cater well for Aaron’s needs. However, after about a month attending the Bolton Wanderers sessions, and with the support of his Mum and the coaches, his confidence had grown considerably and he was joining in enthusiastically and engaging more with the other young people.

Since then, not only have Aaron’s footballing skills improved considerably, it’s also clear that his all-round physical health is much improved, as are his communication skills and social networks. He has now progressed onto the Bolton Wanderers Disability Football Club.


Aaron’s Mum, Zoe, told us “Aaron has come on leaps and bounds since he started the sessions with Bolton Wanderers Every Player Counts. His confidence and abilities have grown enormously………….and these sessions have allowed him not only to take an active part but also find firm friendships. I cannot thank the team enough.”

The project also made Aaron’s dream come true to meet his favourite player, Sammy Ameobi.

WNST Chief Executive Stewart Goshawk told us : “Aaron’s experience is typical of the way in which the myriad of projects delivered under the Every Player Counts banner have been so positive for the participants. Sadly, all too often, a young person or adult with a disability or complex conditions is identified by what they cannot do. Taking part regularly in a football project, under the watchful eye of a highly skilled coach can literally be life changing – improving an individual’s physical skills and co-ordination, making new friends and extended social networks or taking part in positive experiences that increase mental well-being. We may never know the full extent of the benefit of this funding to people up and down the country – but our sincere thanks go to all of the clubs that have been on the programme and their whole-hearted contribution to giving their players such a positive experience.”

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