Thousands of disabled children to have access to free football thanks to McDonald's fun football

McDonald's Fun Football has launched a game-changing free grassroots football coaching development and education programme which will provide over 800 community coaches with the theoretical and practical skills required to deliver grassroots disability football sessions to thousands of children in every part of the UK.
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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%. Providing families with access to qualified coaches offering disability football provision in their local community.

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. Highlighting 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.

McDonald's Fun Football Ambassador Emma HayesMcDonald's Fun Football Ambassador Emma Hayes
McDonald's Fun Football Ambassador Emma Hayes

Joining coaches on the day were Chelsea Women’s manager Emma Hayes, Tottenham under-18s coach, Jermain Defoe, and former Paralympian and current England CP Assistant Coach, Jack Rutter.

Chelsea Women’s Manager, Emma Hayes, said: “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. 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.”

Paralympian and McDonald’s Fun Football Ambassador, Jack Rutter, commented: “What McDonald’s Fun Football is doing is massive. 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.”

Tottenham Under-18s Coach, Jermain Defoe, added: “McDonald's Fun Football teaming up with Kick It Out, England Futsal, and British Blind Sport is a real game-changer for grassroots coaches. These new qualifications mean coaches will be able to implement their new skills across UK communities and remove barriers to participation. We all want football, especially at the grassroots level, to be an inclusive environment so it is vital we constantly review and tackle the barriers that families face to evolve and grow all areas of the game. What McDonald’s Fun Football is doing is exactly that and it is an important lesson to everyone involved in football that more can be done to ensure football is truly for all.”

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.

Andrew Moys, McDonald’s Vice President Impact, added: “We've got a strong track record backing grassroots football in the UK, and in 2024 we will continue to work towards making the McDonald's Fun Football programme not just the biggest but also the most inclusive free grassroots football participation initiative.

“The coaching development programme has been developed to address the clear need for funding when it comes to disability football coaching education. We hope it not only removes the barriers faced by families when trying to access free Fun Football but also empowers our coaches to drive significant change in their local communities for years to come. “

“We're excited about the positive impact this will bring to grassroots football in the UK over the next few years and hope every child aged 5-11 in the UK will have an opportunity to enjoy McDonald’s Fun Football in 2024.”

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.

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