The world’s first ever Autism Football League has launched today in Scotland, providing children and young people with autism with an environment to enjoy football activity.
The league, which was designed and created by the award winning charity Team United, will also feature a cup competition and will consist of nine teams. The first round of matches will take place on Sunday, 3 October.
Team United aims to support young people with disabilities in overcoming social barriers they often face when taking part in sport and physical activity, particularly team sports.
The organisation focuses on supporting young people with autism aged 8-16 years and has worked with football clubs and organisations across Scotland to increase knowledge and capacity, with the aim of enabling more clubs to support young people with autism.
The Autism League’s launch comes after Team United received an award from the UEFA Foundation last year for their innovative approach to working with children and young people with autism.
It is also partially funded by the Scottish FA, who invest £100k annually into the development of Para-Football through game leader organisations such as Team United.
Investment into Para-Football is a key component of the Scottish FA’s vison to harness the power of football to inspire the nation, transform lives and build a united and successful game.
The league will run across four fixture in October, November, February and April 2022, with the Cup competition taking place in May next year.
The launch comes during UEFA Grassroots Week, the annual celebration of all the wonderful work that goes on in grassroots football across Europe.
Ann Brown, founder of Team United: “Many young people we work with attend mainstream school but find it difficult to take part in physical activity alongside their peer group and this leads to isolation and often heightened anxieties.
“Our approach and work in offering a player pathway focussing on the individual provides the tools to make them a team player.
“Structured and supported play allows children and young people with autism an increase in physical activity leading to improved health, a sense of responsibility, self-confidence and pride.
Paul McNeill, Head of Community Football at the Scottish FA: “This work is hugely important in growing the scale and diversity of football participation in Scotland and we hope that its success will serve as a model of best practice for other European nations.
“Team United’s award from the UEFA Foundation is testament to the hard work and dedication of Ann and her colleagues and the launch of the league is further evidence of the power football has to bring positive physical and mental health benefits to all. ”
Trish Sime, Club Development Manager at Bonnyrigg Rose FC: “Team United coaches have worked alongside our own coaches to ensure the sessions are structured to participants’ needs and when I see the young people on a Thursday night it is immediately evident that they are truly having the time of their lives.
“The sessions also offer an opportunity to develop peer support networks among the parents who regularly attend – this is something which in itself holds tremendous potential and which we hope to develop further in the future.”
Visit team-united.org.uk/autism-league for more information.