The Football for All Disability in Football Alliance recently held its fourth online meeting, with a focus on addressing the limited representation of disabled people within the sports industry workforce.

This meeting was led by José Soares and Joana Cal of Integrated Dreams and the Football For All Leadership Programme, with a panel discussion featuring Daniel Wiles (Training and Consultancy Manager, Leonard Cheshire Disability), Dr Chris Whitaker (Head of Disability, Sport England and Football For All Leadership Programme alumni) and Katharina Kühnlein (Blind Football Player and Sustainability Manager, FC Schalke 04).

The Football for All Disability in Football Alliance aims to ensure disabled people’s participation beyond playing aspects of sport and address the low level of disabled people in decision making roles in football. It is not membership based, but represents organisations and individuals that are focused and passionate about the big picture of disability inclusion and aims to act as a vehicle to connect, raise awareness and push the disability-inclusion agenda forward.

In addition to José and Joana, the Football for All Disability in Football Alliance was founded by Joanna Deagle of CAFE, Eli Wolff of Disability in Sport / Power in Sport and Gabriel Mayr.

Pre-pandemic research in the EU showed that only 50.6% of disabled people are employed, compared to 74.8% of non-disabled people. The unemployment rate of disabled people in the EU, aged 20-64, is 17.1% compared to 10.2% of non-disabled people. Disabled women are more negatively affected than disabled men, with a greater percentage not in employment or active within the labour force.

The panel was asked to consider the biggest barriers to inclusive employment, with Chris suggesting a limited understanding of the social model of disability contributed to further inequality and Daniel raising the question of making remote or hybrid working more accessible paired with a lack of awareness amongst employers on how to communicate with disabled employees. Katharina said disabled people still face many prejudices, ultimately leading to fear and inaction amongst employers.

Daniel explained more about the change100 programme, which supports disabled graduates by matching them with appropriate employers for a three-month internship. Leonard Cheshire Disability then continues to offer support to both the disabled person and the employer throughout the internship.

Chris also recalled his experience as a member of the inaugural Football for All Leadership Programme cohort. He specifically recalled the energy amongst the class, and the connections that were built during that time that continue to support one another.

Katharina explained her belief that education brings power, and how the visibility of disabled people as part of employment courses can be key to driving others to want to take part in something similar.

In answering questions from the attending delegates, Katharina said that, after over two years of working at Schalke her disability has been normalised and is no longer at the forefront of discussions with her colleagues. Chris spoke of how imposter syndrome can often be an issue for disabled people comparing themselves to non-disabled people, and Daniel identified the role that assistive technology can play in supporting disabled people to overcome many challenges in the workplace.

Before closing the meeting, the panel was asked to name game-changing moments for disability employment in football.  Daniel explained how the 2012 Paralympic Games in London shone a spotlight on disabled people but said how the goal should be to normalise the presence of disabled people in everyday life so such events do not become exceptional. Katharina said that disabled people can support one another through recommending them for jobs within the industry and shared her own experience of doing this after being offered a job at UEFA EURO 2024. Chris focused on organising committees, and said that they must be representative of disabled people to truly have an impact.

This was the final meeting of the Alliance in 2022, with further events to be announced in the new year. A year-one report will also be prepared shortly, aiming to consider the findings of all four meetings and sharing knowledge with interested parties.

Further information on upcoming events will be published via the CAFE website and social media channels.

For more information about the Football for All Disability in Football Alliance, please contact Joanna Deagle by email to [email protected] or call +44 (0)7463 697 659. You can also follow the Football for All Disability in Football Alliance on LinkedIn.


Published 18/11/2022