Football at the elite level lives in a fairytale world of crazy wages and at times wild excess. It remains though the most popular sport in the world and the FAI yesterday launched a new strategy, built on expanding an already solid Football For All programme that aims to promote access to the sport to everybody who wants to play.
The new Strategy focuses on five pillars of participation, organisational development, education, high performance and communication with clearly defined objectives, actions and desired outcomes in each.
It was launched by an Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald at the Marker Hotel in Dublin in front of a large attendance of those who have benefitted from the programmes as they have been brought to life over the past decade.
Esker United, a club in her own constituency was highlighted as one of those among the now 36 clubs nationally that are delivering programmes for those with a range of disabilities.
The programme includes a variety of disciplines including Cerebral Palsy Football, the national team in which represented Ireland at the Rio Paralympic Games; Powerchair Football whose team recently arrived back from a fourth place finish at the World Cup in Florida; Blind, Deaf, Amputee, Frame Football and more.
FAI CEO John Delaney spoke of an investment from the FAI over the past 15 years of €2.5 million and this being added to by money from FIFA to the tune of $30,000 a year and some €150,000 from Central Government.
“The Football For All programme has been a big success story for the FAI in recent years with excellent work being done all around the country,” he said. It was an honour to launch the new Strategy, which will help the programme grow even more and enable us to cater for more players in communities that deserve to have the opportunity to play football should they want to.
“It was an honour to launch the new Strategy, which will help the programme grow even more and enable us to cater for more players in communities that deserve to have the opportunity to play football should they want to.”
That was echoed by programme manager Oisin Jordan who spoke passionately about the aim of the different areas of work being to ensure that “wherever you are in the country and whatever challenges you face in life if you want to play football then you can.”
We have seen time and time again the impact that sport can have on people with a disability. From the work of Special Olympics, Vision Sport, The Irish Wheelchair Association and Paralympics Ireland there are moments of magic for individuals and their communities which sport has enabled.
This is the most structured approach of any of the major sports in Ireland towards this whole area.
“It has been a long time in the making and down to the efforts of a large number of coaches, development officers and players and the next four years are now clearly mapped out in terms of what we can do to strengthen and deepen the links to all our communities.”
Among the outcomes sought for the programme over the next four years are a greater cohesive identity for the different programmes under the Football For All banner, and the telling of the stories that bring it to life for a wider audience. This will include a planned six part documentary series, a series of Football For All Fifa Live Your Goals Days around the country and 20 new clubs becoming part of the programme.
It is all well put together, clearly defined and deliverable and ambitious s well as ambitious in equal measure. We will learn more about the impact it has had and will have at our Sport for Social Good event taking place at Croke Park on September 21st.
The programme is backed by the support of Tetrarch Hospitality, owners of the Marker Hotel and others including the Citywest Hotel and who have been fully committed in terms of financial as well as team support for the different initiatives.
“We are thankful for the support of Government, our sponsors Tetrarch Hospitality, and all of the volunteers who help us to maintain this programme and we look forward to working with them in the future,” added Delaney.
After the event, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross added his support saying that “As Minister for Sport, I want to ensure that everybody, regardless of their ability or background, is provided with opportunities to participate in sport and to share in the benefits that physical activity can bring.”
“I want to acknowledge the great work the FAI is doing in making football available in so many communities around the country. It has developed excellent national programmes, including Football For All, that provides opportunities for so many people to participate in sport.”
This is one of those Programmes that make sport truly important and deserves to be a winner in every way.
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