Due to Covid, for over 18 months the club was unable to access the training venue. This was longer than many other goalball clubs as the training venue was a school sports centre and the space had been utilised as additional classrooms. The club was unable to find any other local venues.
Fen Tigers say that Covid-19 hit their members hard as many of the participants rely on goalball for physical health and mental wellbeing. The restrictions on participation in goalball made an already under-represented and socially isolated group of people feel lonelier than ever before.
Due to the pause in sessions running, the club was unable to raise subs and paying out to support a return to play hit funds. In turn this impacted the ability to run training sessions and pay for coaches to attend tournaments.
Fen Tigers knew it was critical to survive as a club and continue to deliver and support a wide range of high-quality safe playing opportunities for people with a visual impairment. Living Sport funded the club via the Sport England Together Fund that enabled them to run training sessions and support financial stability of the club.
‘COVID was literally the worst time in my life not being with my friends, family and teammates drove me crazy. When Fen Tigers were able to train again that first session back was one of the best. Every member couldn’t stop smiling and joy being back doing what we love was shown in how committed everyone was to performing on court’
‘Going to goalball training breaks up my day to day existence. It gives me a purpose and I look forward to it so much. It is about the goalball and the time on court but also about spending time with likeminded people. Fen Tigers goalball training is easily the best in the country. The quality of goalball on display is incredible and this really pushes you to improve and be the best you can be. It is also a really welcoming and friendly club. I feel like I have finally found my tribe’
The club say that the impact was that they were able to run more training sessions, which had a huge impact on the organisation as it spread an air of optimism and positivity amongst the players. It also saw new players coming and trying out goalball. Fen Tigers also mention they saw an unexpected number of players from other clubs coming and training with us.
The key learning was that as a club we need to come together to find ways to improve our long-term funding streams to ensure the survival of the club.
The club are currently reaching out to local businesses and trusts to see if they can obtain more long-term support for the club. Fen Tigers say they will continue to help participants attend training with transport support, especially during the cost-of-living crisis as they do not want money to be an additional barrier for people playing goalball.
Once this framework has been published, we encourage partners to consider how they can implement the framework to make a real change for disabled people to access physical activity, sport, and leisure in the way they want, when they want, with no barriers placed on them by society.