Special Olympics is the UK’s largest provider of year-round training and competition for children and adults of all abilities with intellectual disabilities, with sporting opportunities offered at its 95 accredited clubs. In June it is sending a delegation of more than 80 athletes from England, Scotland and Wales to compete at the Special Olympics World Games, which has more than 7,000 international athletes competing.
The LMA is backing the competing Special Olympics GB Unified Football team, which brings together athletes with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team in a 7-a-side format. Its squad of 11 footballers includes six Special Olympics GB athletes, with intellectual disabilities, who will play a minimum of five games in Berlin 2023 as they bid for a Gold Medal against other nations.
Sir Alex Ferguson CBE, LMA Committee Member, said: “It is a great privilege for the League Managers Association to be partnering with the Special Olympics GB football team to help them prepare for the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin this summer.
“The achievements of the Special Olympics movement since it was founded in 1968 by the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of President John F Kennedy, are truly outstanding.
“Over the years, LMA Vice President Lawrie McMenemy has given wonderful support to Special Olympics GB through his role as Honorary President. I’m delighted that other managers across the LMA membership will now have the opportunity to work with Special Olympics GB both during the team’s preparations at St George’s Park and out in Berlin during the games.”
Ben Mathews, Programme Development Manager at Special Olympics GB and Head Coach of the Unified Football Team, said: “We’re incredibly grateful to the League Managers Association for this support, which will ensure that our Unified Football team has access to equipment and facilities to train like professionals for the Special Olympics World Games.
“Unified Sports break down barriers by bringing together athletes, with and without intellectual disabilities, to train together, compete on the same team, and ultimately develop friendships.
“With the support of the LMA, we hope that our inaugural Special Olympics GB Unified Football team can inspire grassroots clubs across the country to develop their own Unified teams, enable us to create more competitions and allow people with and without intellectual disabilities to benefit from one of the most inclusive sporting opportunities.”
Opening at the iconic Olympiastadion Berlin on 17 June and lasting nine days, the Special Olympics World Games is the world’s biggest inclusive sporting event with athletes from Great Britain competing in 17 of the 26 sports.
Lawrie McMenemy MBE, LMA Vice President & SOGB Honorary President, said: “The Special Olympics has been a cause very close to my heart for many years. Back in 2003, the Special Olympics World Games was held in Dublin, the first time the event had been held outside of the United States. I was honoured to walk out with the Special Olympics GB team during that opening ceremony and continue to experience the phenomenal work that the Special Olympics GB does in creating an inclusive community for those with and without intellectual disabilities. Twenty years on, I am thrilled that the League Managers Association will be providing valuable support for Special Olympics GB’s first Unified Football team as the players prepare to compete on this world stage.”
Howard Wilkinson, LMA Chairman, said: “The LMA is proud to have supported Special Olympics GB for many years and it will be a great honour for me personally to be joining the athletes at their training camp at St George’s Park prior to the 2023 Special Olympics World Games.
“The World Games provides life-changing opportunities for the athletes taking part and we know it will continue to inspire future Special Olympics GB competitors.
“We very much look forward to working with everyone at the charity in the coming weeks and months to ensure this event is a huge success for all involved.”
Richard Bevan OBE, LMA Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted to be supporting Special Olympics GB’s first ever Unified Football team, which creates opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to live active lives and raises awareness of the importance of sport participation for all.
“Each year, with the support of our business partners, the LMA charity ‘In the Game’, provides backing for a number of good causes and the Special Olympics GB charity is very close to our hearts.
“The LMA looks forward to supporting those taking part during their time in training at St George’s Park and we wish them every success in Berlin.”
More than 6,500 athletes are currently registered with Special Olympics GB across its clubs in England, Scotland and Wales. All clubs are supported by a devoted team of volunteers with around 3,500 individuals registered to help the charity deliver its life changing work.