Leading Paralympic Sport declares new approach from Sport England ‘a bigger opportunity than London 2012’
Goalball UK, the governing body of the disability sport for the visually impaired, believes the ‘Towards an Active Nation’ strategy unveiled by Sport England can help them grow participation even more than the remarkable expansion they have seen since London 2012, where they enjoyed their best ever performance.
Since the Women’s GB squad finished London 2012 as the second best performing GB team across the whole of the Paralympic and Olympic Games, participation in Goalball, the only team sport for both men and women that are visually impaired, has increased rapidly by 325%.
Since the London games, Goalball UK has exceeded their four-year target for increased participation in just over two years and doubled the number of clubs nationwide in the process.
Highlighting the five outcomes the Government expects from the new strategy as identical to the existing objectives and benefits of Goalball, Mike Reilly, CEO of Goalball UK predicts that the new approach from Sport England will be the greatest opportunity the sport has ever seen.
Mike Reilly said: “As a disability sport we have long recognised and demonstrated that participation delivers so much – physical and mental wellbeing for the individual and a range of social and economic benefits for society as a whole.
“That the national approach to all sport is now aligned with this is brilliant for us.
“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. Now we can look to do even more as we can provide the evidence to show that getting involved in Goalball dramatically improves the life chances of the individual and how their increased independence allows them to make a much greater contribution to benefit us all.
“Last September we revealed a research study that identified that a visually impaired person that gets involved in the sport is 47 per cent more likely to be in employment or full-time education. As a direct consequence, not only are the prospects for the individual increased but they make a much greater social and economic contribution that benefits us all and that remains throughout their adult life.”
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.
The five outcomes the Government wants to see from ‘Towards an Active Nation’ are physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing, individual development, social and community development, and economic development and Goalball UK is confident it can deliver on all of these and at a level few other sports could match.
Mike Reilly added: “At the heart of the Active Nation strategy is the wider value of sport, especially when it comes to under-represented groups who are more likely to be inactive such as the disabled. The visually impaired in particular can find it challenging to find opportunities to participate in sport and society more generally.
“For relatively little investment, our clubs act as a crucial social and support network for visually impaired people and their families.
“From getting fit, or 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.
“We cannot wait to get started with Sports England to seize this opportunity and build on the progress they have helped us to make since London 2012.”