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Organisations:   Rochford Disability Football Academy
Interview with Bob Pointer of the Rochford Disability Football Academy  
(7th January 2011)

Rochford Life: Bob, you are what?
Bob:  I am the founder and chairman of an organisation, a social enterprise involving disabled people, and it’s called the Rochford Disability Football Academy.  It’s been going since 2003

RL: Why did you start it?
Bob: Originally I founded a main stream football club called Hambro Colts, My sons played youth football but it was very elitist and so I wanted to start a Club that anyone could join, so I started Hambro Colts which is in Rayleigh and is still going today. I started with ten children; it’s now got twenty teams from 7 to 16 years old, over 250 members when I left, but as a result of that I’ve always had a passion for working with disabled people and so I started it originally as a project spin-off from the main football club.   

RL: What stirred in you that concern?
Bob:  Well, I have a recognised disability myself, but it’s a hidden one, it’s not an obvious one, but I used to be a helper at Scouts as well and we had a young lad there who now plays football for me and the idea just came from that really, and I wanted him to have an opportunity, so I started it for him really.
We’ve linked up with Cedar Hall School  in Castle Point, and we did all our recruiting from there initially, and we were probably the first disability-only football club in Essex, but as a result now, there is a disability league that we play in and I think there are over twenty or thirty teams in that league. We’ve got two age bands, from 8 to 16 and then we have adults as well. The adults were a link with Day Centres and places like that. We’ve got about fifty members but they are pretty transient; because the demands of parents etc. they don’t always turn up. It’s totally free and we rely upon funding applications that I put in. Our main one is from the Football Foundation who gave us ten thousand pounds to start the Club up and that funding runs out at the end of 2011.    

RL: What sort of disabilities can kids have that either would stop them playing football but yet still enables them to carry on playing football with a disability.   
Bob: With our Club we have everything from learning disabilities, mental disabilities; the only thing we can’t cater for at the moment, because we play on grass, is wheelchairs, but there is a wheelchair-specific club being started by one of our offshoots, Leigh Ramblers, that will specialise in wheelchair football. So we cater for everything else. We’ve got players with Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, everything; there is no bar, we take anyone.

RL: And you said you don’t charge them.
Bob: We don’t charge them, we have sponsors for kits and everything. We are working with Jo Mcpherson (see her page) and we’re actually going to expand it this year and we’re going to start another project which I’ve just put in a funding bid for, from the High Sheriff’s Fund  to start up a diversity project because one of the things for the Olympics is what they call Unified Football which is teams made up of half disabled people and half able bodied people, and my aim is to put on a tournament in the Summer of this year and maybe one next year leading up to the World Cup, promoting  that, because what I am now aware of is that we have a growing community, a lot of people with confidence, but they still are limited to their own community and are not within the wider community. We have a link in with NACRO  which works in the care and rehabilitation of offenders and what we are looking to do is to take some people from there who are obviously trustworthy, who want a new life basically. This is  because one of the things we do at the Club, in the social enterprise part of it, is to use our finding to train people to be coaches, so all of our disabled players get the chance to undertake FA courses to become coaches.

RL: And this works well?
Bob: Three of our coaches have gone on and have left the Club and have and they are working as coaches for disabled people. That is continuing all the time; we recruit them when they get to sixteen to become coaches. I’m a level two coach which is reasonably high (there a three levels), but I don’t do much now. Most of our coaches are level one. We have one female disabled coach and two male disabled coaches at the moment. We also do work in the community, we do coaching at SEEVIC college in the unit there where people from Cedar Hall go to do Life Skills courses. As I said we’ve worked with NACRO and we’ve worked with other people as well.

RL: Did i hear you say a female disabled coach just now?
Bob: Oh yes. We actually have money at the moment from Rochford Council to encourage disabled females because there are lots of males playing but not many females. Unfortunately when it gets to adult, we are bound by the rules of football for adults, and females can’t play with males, so we have females who want to play and can’t.
Active Rochford are linked with Castle Point now and there is a thing from Dean’s School to start a disabled sports club for both districts so we are going to link in to that, because what we want to be is an exit route and we have to have an exit route from our Club as well. So basically that is what we do; my ideal was, is and always will be, that there will be a time when the club will be completely run by the people that it represents, and then I can just stand aside and act as an advisor.

RL: How successful have your teams been?
Bob: We’ve been very successful; we’ve won every division in the league last year which was the inaugural year. We won divisions in the Kent league and we won a trophy for the under sixteens. We’ve also got a player, and we’re probably the only club in the county who has got an international playing for us. He plays for the England Impaired Team, under eighteens.             
RL: You have a job as well as doing all this?
Bob: Until recently I was a lecturer at a University in London but I have left that now. I lectured in Communication Skills and Psychology, mainly to do with Law enforcement. I work for the City Law School and I deliver training on their behalf and I also work in the private sector and I’m going to America to do some work for a big American company next week, teaching them interviewing skills, so that’s what I do but I’m almost semi-retired now. I was a Police Officer for thirty years as well and the qualified teacher then lecturer came after that.      

RL: Well thanks Bob, it’s been really great hearing about a side of the world that many of us know little about, so thank you for sharing and giving us your time.