Football is available to players regardless of disability or impairment thanks to the popular Essex Soccability League from September to May, which “provides an opportunity which ensures they have access to football in an environment which suits their needs.”
The league covers 19 local authorities, which means they utilise two ‘central venues’ on a monthly basis, where all the sides come together to play in a ‘round robin’ format. New players and teams can always take part in the next competition, which is similar to every other mainstream league within Essex though it caters for those with a disability or impairment.
The Adult Section comprises of four divisions: Premiership, Championship (7v7), League One and League Two (5v5). They’re now based at Philip Morant School and College in Colchester for the first half of the season, then Southend’s Garon Park for the second half. From 2018/19, the Youth Section assumed independent ownership and clubs take turns to host events.
Currently there are 66 Soccability sides affiliated to the Essex County FA and 20 of these participate in the countywide competition. Members of the Soccability League also entered last season’s 11v11 South-East Regional Disability Cup, and County FA Development Officer, Cindi Chatha, is proud of how the competition has grown.
“We provide various formats of football, from the traditional 11v11 to small-sided flexi leagues, recreational and Futsal,” she explained. “Those formats don’t always suit players with a disability or impairment, so the Soccability League provides an opportunity which ensures they have access to football in an environment which suits their needs.”
“It’s complex, due to the different requirements of all the players, and the lack of awareness and understanding also causes challenges, especially in ensuring we have enough qualified referees. But it’s a real strength that huge commitment is shown by all those involved in wanting to ensure there is an opportunity for the players, similar to those available to mainstream players.”
“A number of the club members who are involved within the league have volunteered in various roles to ensure it is affiliated and working towards FA Charter Standard status. We have a number of Young Leaders from Colchester Institute who volunteer at our Colchester events and support with setting-up and ensuring the smooth running of the day.”
To find out more about participating in grassroots Essex football, regardless of disability or impairment, or if you’d like to volunteer for the Soccability League, please get in touch, follow @EssexCountyFA on Twitter and search for ‘EssexFootball’ on Facebook.