Chelsea Foundation welcomed more than 200 participants for the Premier League’s Disability Football Festival last weekend.
Taking place at Chelsea’s training ground, the festival featured pan-disability football tournaments with Brighton & Hove Albion, Colchester United, Crystal Palace, Exeter City and Watford victorious on the day.
Chelsea claimed the fair play award on the day following recognition from Surrey FA referees.
The festival created opportunities for players to develop their skills and confidence in a supportive environment, catering for the needs of people who are neurodivergent and those who have sensory or physical disabilities.
Participants were joined by Chelsea legends John Terry and Jody Morris, who gave inspiring team talks to the Chelsea Foundation teams before meeting with all players and their families.
Terry, who won the Premier League with Chelsea on five occasions, said: ‘For the young people to be able to come down to Chelsea’s training ground and experience a day in the life of a professional footballer is fantastic and a day they will remember for ever. There’s nothing better than seeing all of the smiles on their faces and credit to Chelsea Foundation and the Premier League for organising such a great day.’
Chelsea Foundation also worked alongside the Mental Health Foundation on the day who hosted a mental health and wellbeing area to support players, staff and guests.
Ellie Crabb, inclusion and disability senior officer at Chelsea Foundation, said: ‘We are extremely proud to have hosted the Disability Football Festival in what was a truly special day for all. Chelsea Foundation pride ourselves on our social inclusion programmes, with our incredible disability activity a vital part of this, and we look forward to providing more lifelong memories for participants and their families in the future.’
Premier League head of community and football policy, Nick Perchard, said: ‘This year’s Premier League Disability Football Festivals offered a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the importance of football for everyone.
‘We know that the Covid-19 pandemic had a profound impact on participation by people with a disability. These festivals not only offer young people the opportunity to develop their technical ability, the physical and social benefits they gain from coming together with other young people from clubs across England and Wales are vitally important, helping to remove barriers to participation and raising aspirations across the game.’
The Premier League Disability Football Festivals are a celebration of how the Premier League’s community programmes – Premier League Kicks, Premier League Inspires and Premier League Primary Stars – connect young people aged from five to 18 with football, providing positive opportunities to help them to reach their potential.
More than 15,000 participants who reported having a disability took part in Premier League Kicks, Premier League Inspires and Premier League Primary Stars sessions across England and Wales in Season 2021/22, up 18 per cent on season 2020/21.