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Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill is among those who have helped amputee footballers

The world’s first national association dedicated to Para-football is to be created by the Scottish Football Association.

It will also invest more than £100,000 to help grow and run the game.

The governing body’s Para-football and equalities lead hailed the move.

“We’ve decided to give the individual organisations funding to allow them to have ownership of their leagues, their competitions and development of their own game,” David McArdle said.

“There’s no better way to make sure that inclusivity and equality is being embedded in your game than to have them sitting at the same table as everybody else.”

The new affiliated national association will unite a broad range of groups – amputee, cerebral palsy, deaf, frame, learning disability, mental health, powerchair, dwarfism, blind and visual impairment football.

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Its launch announcement is being made at the inaugural Scottish Para-football conference, held in Largs on Sunday.

It hopes to level the playing field by sitting the disability organisations alongside other Scottish ANAs to give them a stronger voice and promote meaningful development.

“In Scotland, you have the youth game, the women’s game, juniors, amateurs, welfare and SPFL, but there is a gap for Para-football and disability sport in general,” McArdle told BBC Scotland.

“The SFA in the past have created the leagues and have set them up and helped the clubs develop, but really what we’ve found is that we don’t have the expertise of how they want their game to run.

“Players should always be at the forefront of everything that the SFA does, so the players will be closer to how the leagues are run, closer to their committees and able to say they want more or less league days and where they should be run.

“In the past, the SFA made those decisions for them, which for the benefit of the game is not correct, so that’s what we’re trying to do with this funding.”

Football for the blind is one of the groups covered by the new association

The move is part of the SFA’s One National Plan, the grassroots football strategy launched in 2017 aimed at empowering players and volunteers, encouraging social change, inclusivity, equality and health.

It is thought to be the first time a nation has brought together the various organisations and McArdle says it is for the good of the Scottish football.

“In the past, all they had was training, training ever week with nothing to look forward to at the end of it,” he explained.

“Now, with over 24 competitions in place, the players have something to look forward to, to look over the other side of the pitch and see another strip that they’re playing against and have that competition element – and have what everyone else in the game just takes for granted.

“The football is always going to be serious. It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing five-a-side with your friends or playing in a professional or amateur league.

“The game is always competitive, so we want to allow opportunity for that to take place.”


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