Disability sport reports three-fold opportunity to ‘transform lives’ since London 2012
New figures from Sports England have shown that the numbers of people exercising at least once week has dropped 0.4% since 2012. In stark contrast to this national downturn, Goalball had seen a 325% surge in participation since the London Games.
Goalball UK exceeded their four-year target for increased participation in just over two years and doubled the number of clubs nationwide in the process, bucking the trend of reduced participation in disability sport – down 2,400 in the last year to 1.56 million people.
Mike Reilly, CEO of Goalball UK, said:
“Since London 2012 and working with Sport England we have dramatically increased participation – with each new player a life transformed for a visually impaired person. For a modest investment, our clubs act as a crucial social and support network for visually impaired people and their families.
“Our success is because involvement in Goalball does more than just support physical well-being. We recognise how involvement supports the greater independence of visually impaired people.
“From having the confidence to use public transport for the first time to get to training sessions, to building the communication and teamwork skills that can lead to employment, Goalball has a huge impact on the lives of those who take part. And being able to attract young adults is especially important as the skills they learn and the independence they gain stay with them for a lifetime.”
These figures, coming shortly after the announcement of the government’s ‘Towards an Active Nation’ strategy are a reflection of Goalball’s vital importance to many visually impaired people and its potential to transform even more lives.
Supporting this claim is research that reveals how the prospects for full-time education and employed are dramatically increased for those involved in Goalball beyond benefits to physical health. Visually impaired young people involved in Goalball are 47 per cent more likely to be in employment or full-time education making them more economically independent and reduce the likelihood that they are dependent on welfare and disability allowances.
Even with the remarkable growth in the sport there is enormous potential to do more. Only 1 per cent of visually impaired people currently have access to Goalball facilities and training, meaning tens of thousands of people are missing out on the very tangible health, social and economic benefits through participation in sport – and society as a whole is missing out on the contribution they could make.
Mike Reilly continued:
“At the start of this new funding cycle, we hope Sport England will recognise that, although our increase in participation numbers is impressive, we can do so much more and build on the progress they have helped us to make since London 2012.”