SANFL will commence its first inclusive league in Adelaide next month in a move to give more people with an intellectual disability the opportunity to play footy.
With the backing of naming rights partner APM Employment Services, the SANFL APM Inclusive League will build on the former successful C7 competition run by Adelaide Footy League.
The new league, established in collaboration with Inclusive Sport SA, will include existing C7 members Eastern Park, Goodwood, Kenilworth and Salisbury football clubs, with the addition of Christies Beach Football Club to offer people with disability in the southern region to get involved in competition footy.
SANFL CEO Jake Parkinson said the goal was to expand the male league to 10 teams by 2021 with two divisions, as well as introduce a female competition in the future.
“We want everyone to have an opportunity to get involved in the game of footy no matter age, gender or ability,” Mr Parkinson said.
“There’s been a tremendous amount of work happen in recent years by volunteers who recognise inclusiveness in sport. Now we want to start building on those efforts to create a real football pathway for young players with disability and the expansion of the inclusive league is big step forward in achieving this.
“We’re also thrilled to have APM Employment Services – Australia’s largest provider of disability employment services – recognise the importance of everyone being involved in sport and come on board with SANFL as naming rights partner for this new league.”
Mr Parkinson said SANFL also would explore establishing regional conferences throughout SA to give more people with disability an opportunity to play competition footy wherever they lived.
He said a focus of the SANFL APM Inclusive League would be on player development, coaching and assisting community clubs to build their capacity to resource inclusive teams.
Inclusive Sport SA CEO John Cranwell said the evolution of the C7 football competition to the SANFL APM Inclusive League was a step in the right direction to ensuring the competition was not only sustainable, but also had an opportunity to grow.
“With greater operational support available to clubs and athletes, we’re looking forward to working with SANFL to provide an additional pathway from the junior ranks which in the future may see the start of a junior inclusive competition,” Mr Cranwell said.
APM Employment Services CEO Karen Rainbow said APM was proud to support the new league to give more people with disability a chance to get involved in sport to increase their fitness and social participation.
“Football is a very important foundation of Australian society and brings all types of people together,” Ms Rainbow said.
“But all too often people with disability are excluded from community and social activities, therefore we are very pleased to support the new league so everyone can get out and have fun while establishing new friendships and connections.
“This helps break down barriers and is an important step towards a more inclusive Australia.”
For more details on the new SANFL APM Inclusive League and to register at sanfl.com.au/inclusiveleague