The FA. For All. James' story
Today, 11.8million people play football in England. And The FA want to ensure everyone who participates has a great experience – regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, ability or disability, faith or age. More than 150 years after they were founded, today’s Football Association is more committed than ever to one simple philosophy: The game is for anyone, anytime, anywhere. In other words: For All.
Football's not just about the professionals. It's for everyone.
Today, 11.8million people play football in England. And The FA want to ensure everyone who participates has a great experience – regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, ability or disability, faith or age.
Whether that’s for a kickabout or when an England team walks out at Wembley – and all the levels of football in between. They created the FA People’s Cup for example – the nation’s biggest free, amateur five-a-side competition.
They also run initiatives to encourage every type of player, oversee all coaching and refereeing qualifications, as well as running and supporting 24 England teams, including seven disability national teams.
James Blackwell was a successful youth footballer who played for the West of England, but apparently always carrying an injury. He also had a secret, which he hid from everyone – including his fiancee. Then the opportunity to represent his country came along.
"To achieve my dream of playing for England I had to be honest about myself. Before that, football was my disguise. Even my fiancee never knew that I was born with cerebral palsy.
"People now look at me very differently. Without The FA, I wouldn't have accepted who I really am."
The chance to be involved in elite-level cerebral palsy football came about through The FA. He saw that as the opportunity to be honest about himself, and describes it as the turning point in his life.
When he came up against a player with his condition in a county-league game, he looked into opportunities for disabled footballers. He continued:
"I got in contact with The FA. They told me the different routes and channels to an elite level of football. It was an opportunity to make me a better person - more genuine and more honest.
"The FA actually gave me the opportunity to tell my wife and friends; the chance to play for England; and to be able to shout: I've got a disability and I don't care."
The FA is For All
Explore the other For All stories here. The players, the teams and the supporters who have been made by football, and in turn, help make football what it is today.
How do you get involved in football?
There are many levels of football you can get involved in whatever your age, gender, ability or impairment– and you can find your nearest location below.