A guest post by Kai Gill, Marketing & Communications Manager, East Riding Electric Eels
Just like in everyday life challenges have to be encountered and overcome, well that happens in the sports industry, whether you are an athlete or a club. This is exactly what happened to Hull’s and East Riding’s own powerchair football club – East Riding Electric Eels.
East Riding Electric Eels powerchair football club were established in 2012 shortly after the Paralympics in London. Since then the powerchair football club has encountered challenges and overcome many. The biggest challenge the club have faced is people asking “is powerchair football even a sport?” As odd as it seems a minority of people think if they haven’t seen a sport on the Olympics or Paralympics then it isn’t a sport. According to The WFA who are the governing body for powerchair football in the UK: ‘Powerchair Football is a unique sport that provides opportunities for people with a high level of impairment to access the game of football. It is the only active team participation sport for people who use electric wheelchairs.’
The sport is a 4-a-side game with unlimited substitutes allowed throughout the duration of the match. Powerchair football is played on a basketball court with a duration of 40 minutes – 20 minutes each half. The sport is played worldwide with England having an international side that are competing in the World Cup in Florida this July. Visit: www.thewfa.org.uk to find out more information about Powerchair Football.
Any sport can be very expensive, from purchasing equipment, to maintenance, to finding a suitable sports facility to train in. In powerchair football it’s very expensive and without grants, sponsors and donations we wouldn’t be able to continue to grow as a club. The specialised power chairs that enable a player to play the sport at a competitive level have costs ranging from £4,000 to £8,000. There are some players who, through sponsors, purchase their own powerchair to enable them to compete at a high level, plus allowing other players to play the sport in club chairs before they purchase their own powerchair.
Electric Eels in their first year struggled to source funding that was suitable for the club to apply for. There are so many grants giving organisations out there if you are a charity but, not many if you’re a sports club. After several discussions, the club committee decided to apply for a charity number. This was highly recommended from other powerchair football clubs and personnel in the WFA as it would open so many avenues for the club. We were successful in our application and since then we have been awarded many grants to purchase specialised equipment. That’s another challenge the club has overcome.
Since 2012 when the club had only 6 – 8 registered players we have grown in numbers to 27 registered players. We have a team in the MDUK Championship National League, a team in the North East Regional League and also, in the Yorkshire League. We also allow players to play if they don’t want to compete and no one ever gets left out. The club has recently announced that we are working in partnership with Tigers Trust who are helping us become one of the biggest clubs in the Country, through gaining new players and enabling us to run powerchair football camps throughout term holidays and much more.
We have been very fortunate to have support from Hudgell Solicitors, who have supported us since day one, providing us with a grant and becoming one of our main sponsors alongside Make A Difference Together and they are both helping us gain new players. We look forward to the future working with Hudgell Solicitors. Neil Hudgell is East Riding Electric Eels patron.
There are so many benefits from playing a sport that can open many doors in the future for you. I am currently the captain and coach of East Riding Electric Eels National Team and have played for five years. I absolutely love playing in a sport as a team. I have made new friends, gained more confidence and have been very fortunate to work alongside the club and governing body whilst I was studying a journalism and digital media degree. I would encourage anyone to come and try powerchair football. You never know where it can take you.
East Riding Electric Eels are always looking for new players. If you have a physical impairment and use a wheelchair and you enjoy football then you are welcome to come along and visit East Riding Electric Eels training sessions which are on every Saturday 11 – 1 pm at Sirius Academy – entrance via Pickering Road.