Open and accessible football celebrated at Netherdale

Darren Thompson and his father Phil with match referee Steven Wilson and captains Sean McKirdy (GFR) and Jamie Barclay (East Stirlingshire).
Darren Thompson and his father Phil with match referee Steven Wilson and captains Sean McKirdy (GFR) and Jamie Barclay (East Stirlingshire).

Gala Fairydean Rovers joined clubs across the world in a UEFA-backed initiative celebrating the inclusion of people with disabilities in sport – the CAFE Week of Action.

Darren Thomson, from the club’s disability football squad, led out the teams as matchday mascot prior to the club’s Lowland League fixture against East Stirlingshire last weekend.

Other members of the club’s disability and walking football squads were on hand to offer assistance to spectators as matchday volunteers and stewards.

The Centre for Access to Football in Europe (CAFÉ) Week of Action offered a unique opportunity for clubs, venues, federations and supporters groups to celebrate the wider inclusion of disabled people and the important role they can play in both football and the wider society.

The Café website stated: “The CAFE Week of Action belongs to you – disabled fans and their groups, football clubs, stadiums, leagues, NGOs and the national associations. This is a great opportunity to show the many different roles disabled people can play within the game, and to demonstrate your commitment to a game that is accessible, inclusive and welcoming for all.”

GFR secretary Graeme McIver said: “We have tried to ensure Gala Fairydean Rovers is a club accessible to all. Through our community engagement programme, we already have shown disability is no barrier to participating in football, whether as a player, a supporter or matchday volunteer.

“The members of our disability squad and Over 50s walking football team are fully integrated into our club. We are also trying to improve facilities at Netherdale to make the 3G Arena a welcoming and accessible venue for supporters with disabilities who attend our games.”

Darren Thomson said: “The club has been brilliant with me. I am very grateful for how it has kept me involved and part of the team. As well as leading out the teams, I was invited to open the club’s new disability viewing area.”

GFR was grateful to the sponsors of its disability and walking football teams.