It’s commonly thought that football is a sport for all to enjoy, but those in wheelchairs have been generally left out.
Lancashire Spitfires owner, Warren Jones, has vowed to change that.
Based in the Rossendale area, Spitfires Powerchair Football Team will hold their first session on March 27, making them the first Powerchair football club in Lancashire.
Founded as a girl’s football club in February 2020, Spitfires have helped to boost accessibility in football for girls in the Darwen area, with 65 members taking part across five teams.
They now look to Powerchair, a form of football played in an electric powered wheelchair, to get more participants onto the pitch.
The idea came as a result of Jones’ role as a support worker for his friend Reece, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy.
“Reece is a massive Burnley fan, he’s a season ticket holder, so when I started looking at how I could get Reece into sport himself that’s when I came across Powerchair,” said Jones.
It hasn’t been plain sailing since the idea was born, with the pandemic stopping any plans from coming to fruition.
“We tried to launch it basically 18 months ago, but obviously with what happened with Covid it had to be put on the backburner,” said the Blackburn native.
“We’d already done fundraisers as well, as we’d raised a pot of money to get it all launched but then obviously all the indoor venues were all shut through covid.”
The club made a GoFundMe to try and raise funds to buy the specialist equipment required to run a Powerchair team, which ended up raising £2,760.
Another Powerchair team, Bolton Bullets, also came to Spitfires’ aid.
“We teamed up with a lady called Shirley at Bolton Bullets. They’ve been established for about ten years, so she’s been really helpful,” Jones added.
“Bolton have helped us out by giving us some secondhand wheelchairs, which is absolutely brilliant.”
Finally, after a year and a half of waiting, the project will finally see its first session. Jones, however, is already looking to the future.
“If we’ve got some talented people, there’s opportunities to progress the team into the Championship, the Premiership and then, potentially, certain players might even be put on the England pathway,” Jones stated.
Powerchair’s structure is very similar to football, with the Premiership being the top division, Championship second and then regional divisions under that.
Powerchair football, a French creation, originated in the 1970s when teachers created the sport to give those with physical disabilities a chance to play. The governing body, The International Powerchair Football Association, was founded in 2006 after organisations from across the world agreed on a set of rules.
Not all of Lancashire Spitfires’ problems have been ironed out yet.
“We’ve still got another couple of issues to get over like regards to storage and stuff like that and making sure the chairs are permanently on charge,” Jones said.
These are exciting times for disabled football fans in Lancashire, as finally they have a resource that can allow them to get stuck into the game they love.