The opening round of the competition is set to take place on Sunday 11th February
Lincolnshire FA are extremely excited to announce that a new County Cup competition has been launched for the 2023/24 season - the County Disability Cup.
2024 will mark the first season of this unprecedented competition for the disability football pathway in Lincolnshire, and offers a new competition for clubs to compete in alongside the Lincolnshire Ability Counts League.
Over ten years from its formation, The Lincolnshire Ability Counts League continues to grow from strength to strength.
The league has been developing across each year and has plans to expand over the coming seasons to incorporate female specific and youth divisions.
The league works unlike any other league within the county and operates purely on a festival basis, where teams come to central venues across the county over the season to compete. The results from each festival are collated and added to previous festival results to produce league tables and overall winners.
One of the elements it shares with the traditional mainstream leagues are that players are put into divisions due to their ability and not disability; this, therefore sees players with different impairments playing together and against each other in what is known as PAN disability.
The County Disability Cup was developed with consultation of Lincolnshire's current disability clubs and teams to ensure the new competition was fit for purpose and was delivered in line with the wants and needs of the clubs and players alike. The competition has some variation to the league rules, to ensure it is an alternative opportunity to the Ability Counts League format.
The competition will run in a 6-a-side, Champions League style format where teams will compete in a group stage before the top teams progressing into the knockout stages. The knockout stage will take place at a central venue/stadia to ensure the players get the same, exciting County Cup Final experience. The Finals day will consist of two Semi Finals, a 3rd Place Playoff Final, and the County Disability Cup Final. All 4 teams that progress to the knockout stage will receive medals.
The competition will be delivered in partnership with the Ability Counts League, and with Referees who have pre-existing experience of officiating disability football - ensuring it is delivered in a way that puts the players' experience first, as well as rewarding the league's consistent Referees with opportunities to officiate in a County Cup competition.
Jordan Mason, Football Development Officer (Disability & Inclusion) at Lincolnshire FA, said:"The County Cup Competitions are one of Lincolnshire FA’s most popular initiatives, and we are really pleased that our fantastic disability teams now have the opportunity to compete in this new competition. The Lincolnshire Ability Counts League and County Cup Committee have worked closely to deliver a competition that provides a competitive, yet inclusive format, and I’m confident we have struck that balance to provide a fantastic new opportunity.”
Stuart Houlton, Business Support Officer at Lincolnshire FA, said:"The Lincolnshire County Cups are highly sought after competitions regardless of the age category or pathway your team is competing in, so it's absolutely fantastic that the disability playing pathway now has their own respective competition to look forward to. The County Cups are the FA Cup of grassroots football in our area and so it's brilliant to hear that the players, coaches, volunteers, and parents alike are looking forward to the launch of the competition.
The County Cup Committee and the Ability Counts League have worked well together to bring this to life and make it happen and I want to extend my own personal gratitude to everyone involved who's hard work has allowed the County Disability Cup to launch this season. Good luck to all involved!"
Sophie Bartup, Chairwoman of Barton Inclusive FC, added: "This is a significant milestone for inclusion within football in Lincolnshire, and we welcome the opportunity to recognise the exceptional and talented footballers that play within our County, within the disability pathway. By creating an inclusive environment within the County Cup strategy, Lincolnshire FA is committing to a more diverse and integrated sporting community.
Promoting the Lincolnshire FA Disability County Cup not only improves the physical and mental wellbeing of players who take part, it also contributes to building a more inclusive footballing community within Lincolnshire, creating a culture where there is greater understanding for footballers with a disability.”
Inter Barton FC Captain, Matt, highlights the importance of mental and physical health for players with a disability: “This competition is important because it brings the best out of us, the enjoyment on the players' faces. Plus, it gives opportunities to people who never had a chance to enjoy the spectacle. This competition will boost the confidence in everyone moving forward into the next session, also more game time to improve mental and physical training."
Andrew, whose son Charley joined BIFC last year and is competing in his first competitive season, shared: “I would say it's fantastic to have the Disability Cup and that people with a disability have the chance to be part of it and it’s definitely a good move by the County FA.”
Barton Pumas FC manager Rob, who has progressed from player to coach, has been preparing ahead of the fixtures: “It will certainly be a test. We will find it tough, especially against the Grimsby Premiership side. But as long as they enjoy themselves, that’s all that matters in my eyes. I want them to enjoy their football, that is all.”
Jason Land, Lincolnshire FA Disability Football Ambassador & Coach of Grimsby Town Ability Counts FC, said: "This year’s first ever County Cup for disabilities is an amazing addition for players with SEND, alongside the Lincolnshire Ability Counts League. This will give players more competitive playing opportunities, with a slightly different playing format to which they are used to play in their respective leagues, as well as the opportunity to play against teams which they would normal not play against. This is so important to showcase the Disability game and see it sat alongside mainstream football.
For the County FA to offer this is an absolute class move and a huge step toward total inclusion for all players of football throughout the county. Football is for everyone and a competition that provides competitive playing opportunities for such an every growing demographic for the people of Lincolnshire is outstanding.
With the announcement of the County Cup, the hype has been real. For our players to see their teams in mainstream media and receiving the same limelight as everyone else has given them a real buzz. At Grimsby Town Ability Counts this competition feels like our FA Cup, and we feel privileged and so excited to take part in such a fantastic competition."
Director of Football at Grimsby Town Foundation, Earnie Land, added:“This is a brilliant addition and extra opportunity for our player to play football, and a step forward for Disability football. “
Travis Browning, a Player for Grimsby Town Ability Counts FC, is excited about the launch of the competition:"I think this is good opportunity to take part in a different competition. I am really excited to play in this for the first time, it will be a really challenge."