The three-year-long initiative will utilise the profile and expertise of the Premier League, BT Group, professional football clubs and BT Sport to inspire disabled people to become more active as well as develop new skills and confidence.
Tottenham Hotspur has a wealth of experience in delivering inclusive sports for people living in the local community and internationally and this was showcased at the launch event held at the London Stadium yesterday.
Over the last 10 years, the Club, through its charitable body Tottenham Hotspur Foundation, has delivered over 13,000 opportunities to people with disabilities through sport.
Leading by example, Ledley introduced BT Ambassadors and two of his former England teammates, Michael Owen and Owen Hargreaves, to a game of visually impaired football led by the Foundation.
Ledley said: “We were all blindfolded to restrict our vision and had to try and shoot the ball in to the goal – it was much harder than it looked. There is a lot of skill required to control the ball but it was great to see the young people playing to such a high standard and more importantly, enjoying themselves.
“The projects delivered by Tottenham Hotspur Foundation clearly demonstrate the number of benefits sport can bring to people with disabilities, particularly in helping to increase confidence, raise aspirations and promote skills that many of us take for granted such as being able to work in teams.
“An increased investment in disability sport will certainly help to inspire the next generation of Paralympic athletes.”
Following an independent funding application assessment process, successful Premier League clubs will employ a dedicated Disability Officer responsible for co-ordinating the programme and promoting inclusion. Disability Officers will work with local agencies to amplify existing work and deliver programmes that engage disabled people through sport. Sport will be used to provide a range of opportunities such as volunteering, education, employability, and apprenticeships. Programme areas will include:
• Sport: opportunities for disabled people to take part in sport and physical activity
• Inclusion: ensuring that staff make reasonable adjustments to make activities inclusive to all
• Engagement: ensuring disabled people have a positive experience of the programme
• Events: clubs will deliver activities to raise awareness of their work in this space. The Premier League and BT will organise a national event at the end of each season, to give participants the opportunity to come together and mark their achievements
BT Sport will produce and broadcast short films on the individuals and storylines involved in the initiative, raising the profile of the project and clubs’ broader inclusion work to millions of people. BT Group will enhance delivery of the project by contributing thousands of hours of additional manpower through its respected employee volunteering programme.
Richard Scudamore, Executive Chairman, Premier League, said: “Premier League clubs already run a wide range of excellent programmes that provide sporting and educational opportunities for disabled people. This innovative new partnership means even more will benefit from our clubs’ expertise and the unique attributes that sport delivers, as well as opportunities across all club community areas, from coaching through to employment.
“BT has a strong track-record of supporting community projects through BT Sport’s The Supporters Club and a commitment to inclusivity, which is why our clubs are so keen to work with them to help disabled people get more opportunities through sport.”
Gavin Patterson, chief executive officer, BT Group, said: “BT is a long-term supporter of disability sport and is passionately committed to inclusion and diversity for our people and customers. Our partnership with the Premier League underpins BT’s firm belief that disabled people should have every opportunity that non-disabled people have. We have a strong commitment to an inclusive culture by improving the experience of our disabled employees. BT is firmly committed to serving our disabled customers appropriately through our innovative Customer Inclusion Panel which develops the best experience and choice for all customers.
“As BT Sport continues to grow and establish itself within the sporting landscape, this initiative typifies how BT will use the power of sport as an enabler of social change. We are thrilled to deepen our long-term partnership with the Premier League and proud that this initiative is another step in BT’s journey towards our goal of generating more than £1 billion for good causes by 2020 through our people, fund-raising, skills and technology.”