Funding plea for footballers in a League of their own

FOR all football’s riches, little of the cash that continues to pour into the game trickles through to its lower reaches.

And while they can only dream of being blessed with the skills of Harry Kane, Paul Pogba and Sergio Aguero, Ability Counts participants love the game just as much.

Their ‘Wembley’ is Littleton Road in Salford, host venue for the Greater Manchester Ability Counts League.

The club in question plays under the Milnrow FC banner after its former guises of Oldham and then Heyside Ability Counts.

But as interest and participation increases, funding is decreasing, making it increasingly tough to flourish.

Milnrow runs three open age and three U16s teams, accommodating 100 children and adults and giving opportunity for all those with learning and physical disabilities, regardless of ability.

They train at Hathershaw School, Crompton House School and Kingsway Sports Centre in Rochdale. A further venue in Oldham is about to be added with more schools showing interest.

Mark Senior is one of the coaches alongside Simon Wallace, Charlie Thornton and Andrew Shillito.

“As well as playing football, it improves health, wellbeing, social skills, teamwork and friendships,” explains Mark.

“Being part of a team allows individuals to enjoy a sport in a safe, friendly environment.

“However, the teams rely on funding to survive.

“Unfortunately, through lack of funding opportunities, the club is now seeking sponsors to enable the teams not only to survive but also to continue growing to offer more children and vulnerable adults the opportunity to play.

“Due to the success and growth, transport costs have also increased.

“Without a minibus we have to cancel fixtures as we just can’t get the children or adults to the games in Salford.

“There are also league fees, Football Association affiliation costs, venue hire, kits, training equipment, coach qualifications and regular updates ensuring safeguarding and emergency aid and CRBs are up to date.

“So we are always looking for sponsors so we can continue to offer such opportunities.

“There is huge appreciation for people like the wonderful Maria from the Food and Craft Fair who help us continue the work we do.

“I have been involved right from the start when Oldham Sports could no longer continue to fund long term.

“I’d never experienced disability up close so really didn’t truly understand. But becoming involved is the best thing I ever did.

“I absolutely love it, despite the earache, the meltdowns, and the wind ups. It’s the pure joy of seeing individuals develop.”

A new School Disability League is due to start in October, offering more players opportunity to enjoy football and represent their schools with a pathway to the ability counts teams and official FA leagues.

For more information call Mark Senior: 07765 495328 or email marksenior3864@hotmail.co.uk

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