This autumn the Scottish FA has given disability football in the South East Region a huge boost with the announcement of a pilot scheme to support links between schools and clubs for disability football in the area.

The Scottish FA’s Equity team have been very busy in recent years promoting a new strategy and policy for a “level playing field” for all types of football in Scotland and, as part of the Disability aspect, they support those with learning disabilities, those who wish to participate in wheelchair football with the Scottish FA along with deaf and hearing impaired and football for the Blind and Visually Impaired with South Lanarkshire Council, Edinburgh City Council and The Royal Blind School.

Saltersgate Primary School has proudly been selected to run the first block of sessions with Dalkeith Miners Football Club as part of this new pilot scheme. Dalkeith Miners CYP have great experience in coaching disabled football and they themselves run sessions for disabled footballers as a club so it is a wonderful partnership and the Scottish FA are keen to support both institutions in their positive work by promoting this scheme.

The scheme itself aims to go one step further for disability football and will support a range of disabilities in sessions which, if successful, will be rolled out to other schools and club partners in due course.

We spoke with the Scottish FA’s Football Equity Officer for the South East Region, Jennifer Malone, and their Disability Manager, David McArdle, who were only too happy to tell us all about the scheme, its aspirations and the hopes they had for the successes and benefits such a scheme could bring to the community.

“The pilot scheme ran as a block of five sessions which catered for groups of, on average, around ten with a range of disabilities being coached on activities at different ‘stations’ in the zone, demonstrating a range of developmental opportunities for the participants who were on each occasion.”

One delighted parent provided positive feedback on the session, saying: “Thanks again to you and all the people that helped out - I appreciate how much time you have put into this and hope it goes onto be a success. I know that you had thought a lot between the sessions to see what could help the kids and that was really beneficial.

A side benefit that you are possibly not aware of is the benefit for the parents. Personally, for me as a mum, not having Luke being seen as the 'different' one was refreshing and meant that all the parents could chat about their children's conditions openly and without feeling their child
was the odd one.”

Steven Williams, coach of Dalkeith Miners’ disability section, hailed the sessions a success after receiving some excellent feedback from parents. A recent open day was a chance for Steven and the team to do a bit of networking and after the glowing response, the next block of sessions have been organised at the indoor Soccer City Complex.

So, the next sessions, as a result of this feedback are to be held on the 15th November at Soccer City, Mayfield, so right away the kids have an opportunity to continue the fun.

This continuity is an element the Scottish FA is proud to have identified as a key factor to growing a sustainable community of support for grassroots disability football in the Midlothian region and beyond. Working in partnership with schools that cater for disability football; social funding schemes such as Cashback for Community; other organisations such as Active Schools and disability inclusive clubs such as Dalkeith Miners; the national governing body can keep evolving the operations in line with what the communities actually need, so it is a win for all involved.

Most opportunities within disability football are currently through schools or are for adults so, having identified the gap, the Scottish FA are working hard bridge it so that disability football for kids can flourish. The sessions are labelled ‘Pan-Disability’ because they cover such a broad spectrum of needs for support, and everyone can be involved.

The funds and the scheme are aimed at supporting this wide range of requirements in a sustainable manner, and as such are helped in part from funds recovered from criminal activity, putting it to good use back in the community.

If you want to find out more about the sessions, wish to be involved or learn how you can be involved, or even just to keep up to date on the progress of the scheme in a wider sense, contact Jennifer Malone on