A talented group of young amputee footballers were guests of honour as Fleetwood Town celebrated the start of Level Playing Field’s Weeks of Action.
The annual campaign – now in its 15th year – shines a spotlight on those who make a difference to the enjoyment and experience of disabled sports fans.
And to mark the start of 2019 #WeeksofAction, Town chairman Andy Pilley invited a group of Lancashire-based amputee footballers to enjoy a special day at Highbury.
Liam Brittles, 16, Jamie Oakey, 15, Thomas Atkinson, 15, Ben Tierney, 14, and CJ Donaghey, four, are hoping to attend a European training camp in Germany this summer, supported by funding from Fleetwood Town and other sponsors.
The young players took to the Highbury pitch ahead of Saturday’s League One game with Gillingham to show off their skills and meet Cod Army head coach Joey Barton.
Jamie, who was born without a right foot, plays for Everton and is a member of England Amputee FA’s Under-23 squad. He said: “It was amazing to be invited to the game and we had a brilliant day.
“It was great to meet Joey Barton and the team and be on the pitch before kick-off. The club has been brilliant sponsoring our trip to Germany which is really going to help all the lads.”
The #WeeksofAction initiative – held this year between March 2-17 – is organised by Level Playing Field, the representative body of disabled football supporters.
It is an annual celebration of disabled football supporters and the work being done by clubs, disabled supporters’ associations, fans and other organisations towards delivering access and inclusion.
Andy Pilley said: “It was an honour to invite an inspirational group of young players to be our special guests on Saturday.
“I was delighted we were able to donate towards helping these lads get to their training camp in Germany and we have offered the England amputee squad free use of our training facilities any time they need them.
“As a club we are very proud of the work to ensure that our matchday experience is inclusive for all.
“Both the club and our Community Trust work with many groups, both at Highbury and our Poolfoot Farm training ground, to make sure disabled fans and players get to enjoy this wonderful sport, whether they are spectators or players.
“It was great to see the young amputee players on the pitch before the game and we wish them the very best out in Germany. We’re sure the Cod Army got to see some real stars of the future.”
The junior amputee players are closing in on their target of raising £5,000 to attend the European training camp. If you can help contact Elaine Oakey on 07759 959445. They are also holding a fund-raising night at the Guards Club, Whitegate Drive, Blackpool, on Saturday March 23 from 6pm. Auction and raffle prizes welcomed.
To find out more about the work of Level Playing Field and its #WeeksofAction go to www.levelplayingfield.org.uk