Social Inclusion Football League

See the latest edition of the One-2 fanzine: June 2016 (Issue 28) Click here for the latest Social Inclusion Football League match report and information

In the heart of East Lancashire, the Blackburn with Darwen Social Inclusion Football League is doing something quite remarkable.

In a Borough that has the highest percentage of people with mental health problems in England, the league is providing much needed respite for a number of its residents as well as offering a pathway to recovery that isn’t reliant on the more conventional methods of support. And the results are proof that putting service user’s needs and preferences first is fundamental to promoting wellbeing and independence.

Football is not everyone’s cup of tea but the principles behind the league provide a template that can be used for any form of engagement with the intention of improving people’s lives through encouragement, hope and a sense of belonging that ultimately triggers new found aspirations.

The League is currently operating to capacity with a raft of teams waiting patiently in the wings to join and start their own journeys. Once a month, 14 teams from a variety of organisations descend on the Blackburn Rovers Indoor Centre to play the beautiful game and walk away with new friends, new found confidence and sometimes the occasional sleepless night as we relive that Cruyff turn and shot that leaves the keeper stranded as onlookers roar their approval. It’s priceless.

The range of organisations taking part further cements the importance of the league and its forward thinking. Teams represent organisations supporting people with a variety of needs including mental health, homelessness, drug & alcohol and learning difficulties. As one team manager put it: "There is no stigma on match days. We are just like everyone else – footballers."

We should, regardless of economic or political climate, embrace and support the things that work. This works and it makes a difference. We have seen many, many people participate in the league who have gone on to enjoy voluntary work, full-time employment and further education. There is also the clear benefit to physical and mental health, self-esteem and confidence. But perhaps more importantly, having learnt from their own experiences, players have become mentors… peer supporters. The most qualified people to support those who have found themselves in similar situations.

The League has recently successfully pitched for £50,000 of funding from The People's Projects via The Big Lottery Fund. This moving video from Rovers TV gives you the perfect insight into why we asked the public to vote for this vital project that improves so many lives.

For regular updates on the Blackburn with Darwen Social Inclusion Football League (also known as the Creative Support Football League) please follow their Twitter account at twitter.com/One2Blackburn.

For more information about the league and also the Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, please email enquiries@brfctrust.co.uk

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