The Irish FA has become the first sports governing body in Northern Ireland to be recognised with an Inclusive Sport Award by Disability Sport NI.
The award highlights governing bodies of sport that have made a commitment to creating an inclusive sports environment for people with disabilities.
It was presented on the same day as the Irish FA launched its new Disability Strategic Plan which aims to further create, develop and support opportunities for those with a disability to participate in football in all levels across Northern Ireland.
The plan has five objectives – to increase participation by 10%; to establish and grow clubs in Northern Ireland; to create and develop competitions that mirror opportunities in the mainstream sector; to further improve the delivery of coaching to players with a disability and to improve the experience of spectators with a disability at matches.
The new disability strategy was written following consultation, planning and development with many stakeholders across the disability sector. It fits with the Irish FA’s primary ethos ‘Football For All’. It is also part of the association’s ten-year youth strategy – ‘Let Them Play’ which is committed to doubling participation by 2025.
Sports Minister, Paul Givan, was present at the launch and said: “I would like to congratulate the Irish FA for being recognised with an Inclusive Sport Award. It is clear that the association is working to promote opportunities for people with a disability and I commend their work in this area.”
President of the Irish Football Association, David Martin, said: “We want disabled people in Northern Ireland to have the same opportunity to play, watch and coach football as those without a disability. I would like to thank Alan Crooks, Irish FA Disability Football Development Manager, for his hard work on developing this strategy and to congratulate him and his team for being recognised with an Inclusive Sport Award.”
Patrick Nelson, Chief Executive of the Irish FA said: “As an association we believe in football for all. While we have created opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in football for the past 20 years there is still more we can do, particularly in the area of providing access to local football opportunities. The Disability Strategic Plan sets out clear targets to grow the game in this area and I look forward to seeing its successful implementation over the next four years.”