Manchester United Foundation has always been proud to work closely with the MU Disabled Supporter’s Association (MUDSA), in order to support our disabled participants and offer opportunities such as football tournaments and a pathway for players to become members.
Since 2018, MUDSA has funded an annual PAN-disability football tournament for Foundation participants and other disability teams from across the country, held at the Aon Training Complex. As of 1st July 2020 MUDSA has also committed to fund the Foundation’s Ability Counts programme for the next three years.
Chas Banks, secretary of MUDSA, said: “MUDSA is pleased and proud to support the Foundation’s innovative and valuable work in the community. Providing opportunities for disabled and non-disabled fans to play together is a wonderful way of making them feel part of the club we all love.”
Offering young people with disabilities the opportunity to play or coach with Manchester United, the Ability Counts programme is one of the largest and most successful in the Premier League. Teams usually train at the historic Cliff Training Ground on Friday evenings, with a focus on supporting players with a sensory, physical and neurological disability.
Thanks to funding from MUDSA, the Foundation team has been able to adapt yet maintain its high level of service to its disabled participants throughout Covid-19, which for those with extra needs may be even more challenging. Staff have made over 80 welfare calls to young people and families with whom they regularly work, and have set up weekly sessions to include family challenges, online quiz nights and virtual exercise classes to keep both bodies and minds active.
“Ability Counts was always the highlight of his week, so losing that football training session in March left a huge hole in my son’s life,” said parent David Oldfield. “Fortunately the team has kept in regular contact with my son throughout the lockdown, really helping to make him feel like a valued part of the club.”
Over the years, the Foundation’s disability programme has received great support from Manchester United players past and present, with Andrew Cole attending the Unified Football World Cup in 2018, Darren Fletcher being a regular supporter of Ability Counts, Rio Ferdinand getting involved during and after his playing days, and Eric Bailly and Wes Brown trying their hand at powerchair football. Wes made a repeat appearance recently as he joined the online MUDSA-Foundation exercise class, expertly leading a routine that could be modified for those with varying levels of ability.
Wes joined Foundation coaches to host the session for ten MUDSA members and Foundation participants who have been keeping active with the team every week throughout Covid-19. He also took part in a Q&A and quiz put together by the members, during which he regaled stories from his time as a Manchester United player – see the video for more.
As well as supporting participants and MUDSA members through online challenges and sessions, the disability and inclusion team have also continued to support local special educational needs schools with which the Foundation is partnered, and staff recently delivered 500 sensory packs to local pupils and participants. The Manchester United drawstring bags included a yoyo, bouncing putty, hand clappers, fidget spinner, soft ball, MUDSA’s Rollin’ Reds magazine, chocolates, sweets and a United player card, which were greatly received by the young fans.
Another parent, Catherine Browne, said: “Thanks so very much for Joe’s gift; what a lovely gesture. He was very happy to receive the bag and its contents.”
The funding from MUDSA will enable the Foundation to continue to make a difference to young people with disabilities and additional needs over the next three years, something which is even more pertinent following Covid-19 as we all respond and adapt to a new normal.To find out more about the disability and inclusion programme visit mufoundation.org/projects