Chris Lowes, head of Oxford United in the Community, outlines the charity's latest disability football provision and inspiring healthy lives on and off the pitch.

Three weeks ago, we had the pleasure of opening the doors of Oxford United’s training facilities on Horspath Road to participants of our all-new weekly disability football sessions.

It was an opportunity for players and their carers to go behind the scenes and experience the day-to-day routine of a professional footballer and feel truly connected to the United badge.

Disability sport has a rich and proud history in the UK with many elite athletes such as David Weir, Ellie Simmonds and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson holding household name status for their achievements.

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However, there remains a concerning gap at the lower end of the participation pyramid which has been magnified by the pandemic and its national impact on the provision of disability sport.

A recent survey conducted by disability charity Activity Alliance revealed disabled adults are almost twice as likely as non-disabled people to be physically inactive – 42.4 per cent against 22.6 per cent.

The same survey also discovered 77 per cent of disabled people would like to be more active.

So, what can be done to help reverse those statistics? The obvious solution is to increase the volume of disability sport provisions and deliver a fun, engaging and inclusive programme of activities that inspire long-term participation.

This year, we were pleased to enter a new partnership with Abingdon and Witney College to provide dedicated weekly football sessions tailored for people living with a disability.

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Since our first session, we’ve been really heartened and encouraged by the response from Oxfordshire’s disabled community with participation numbers more than double what they were in January.

It demonstrates a clear need for provisions of this kind locally and underlines our belief that more can be done to engage those living with a disability with sport.

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At Oxford United in the Community, it’s our responsibility to harness the energy generated from these sessions and help participants increase their self-confidence, social skills and wellbeing while aspiring towards a positive future.

It’s why our final session before the Easter break was delivered with a helping hand from our colleagues at Oxford United, who kindly welcomed participants with open arms to the club’s training ground.

After taking part in a training session of their own, players were invited to take an exclusive tour of the first-team dressing room, the boardroom and onsite gym.

Our patron and club legend Peter Rhoades-Brown led the tour and was able to answer any burning questions our guests had.

These experiences will live long in the memories of our disability football participants, and hopefully inspire them to take their engagement with football to the next level. That could be continuing to attend our weekly sessions, finding their local club or even cheering on Liam Manning’s side at the Kassam Stadium before the season concludes next month.

Of course, if you’re reading this column and would like to learn more or even get involved yourself with our disability football group, please don’t hesitate contacting our friendly and helpful team via

Sessions are open to players of all abilities and take place every Wednesday from 10am for two hours at Abingdon and Witney College’s Abingdon campus in the main sports hall.

We very much hope to see you soon!

Chris Lowes, Head of Oxford United in the Community

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This story was written by Andy Ffrench, he joined the team more than 20 years ago and now covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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