Donations made by generous Oxford United supporters this season have ensured a flagship community programme for disabled football enthusiasts will continue into summer 2024.
Over £1,700 has been raised for Oxford United in the Community – the football club’s official charity – by fans who choose to leave a donation when purchasing tickets for first-team fixtures.
The money has since been pledged to support the charity’s weekly disability football sessions which are delivered in partnership with Abingdon and Witney College.
Launched at the beginning of the year, the sessions are open to participants of all abilities and experiences aged 18 or older and focus on enhancing disability football provisions in Oxfordshire, facilitating new friendships, opportunities and developing key life skills.
Over 30 players have taken part in at least one session since the programme’s launch. Highlights include a behind-the-scenes training ground tour, Player of the Month matchday presentation, the chance to train with club legends and representing the U’s badge in an organised tournament.
Mark Thomas, Social Inclusion Lead at Oxford United in the Community, said extending the charity’s disability sessions with the help of United supporters was well-received among the group.
“Launching our disability football programme has been a real highlight this year,” said Mark. “To have the finances in place to secure sessions until the end of the academic year is great news for us to deliver before Christmas.
“We’re so grateful to everyone who has pledged money – whatever the amount – when purchasing matchday tickets. It really does make a genuine difference to our community programme delivery as this move demonstrates.
“One of the primary goals for participants when taking part is to improve their football skills. But by playing for two hours each week, they’re subconsciously building personal skills which can be applied to the real world as well.
“We have exciting plans for 2024 and our disability football delivery is very much at the heart of it.”
Donations made by supporters since September will also fund a special Oxford United vs Northampton Town disability match on Saturday, January 20, at the club’s training ground.
The match will take place ahead of U’s League One fixture against the Cobblers with players from both sides heading to the Kassam Stadium afterwards to watch the first-team match together.
Lee Humber, Adult Learning Disability Coordinator at Abingdon and Witney College, added: “A huge thank you to Oxford United supporters for really buying into the charity’s vision to inspire happier, healthier and better-connected communities through sport.
“We’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback from our participants and their carers since launching sessions at the beginning of the year and are thrilled to be able to extend delivery into the summer.
“No past experience or playing ability is required to get involved, so we would urge anyone who knows someone who would benefit from being part of our sessions to get involved!”
Sessions are free and are held every Wednesday during term time at Abingdon and Witney College’s Abingdon campus in the main sports hall from 1pm for two hours. Players are asked to register their interest in attending via [email protected] before turning up.
Fans interested in supporting Oxford United in the Community and its work can make a donation when purchasing matchday tickets at the online checkout. All funds raised go directly towards supporting the charity’s community provisions.
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