Blind Euros 2015 draw plays to England’s strengths

President of the Paralympic Society Sir Philip Craven has just opened one of the balls for the Euros draw; Jeff Davis from the FA is standing there holding up the country name as RNC Director stands with the microphone making the announcement to the crowd. Patron of the Sports Academy Dave Clarke is sitting at the back of the stage, smiling.

Sir Philip Craven MBE, President of the International Paralympic Committee, announced the draw for the IBSA Blind Football European Championships 2015 at The Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) in Hereford today.

Group A is led by England, the home team for the tournament, and also comprises Turkey, Germany, Italy and newcomers Poland. Reigning champions Spain (ranked number one in Europe) are joined by France, Russia, Greece and tournament first-timers Belgium in Group B.

Jon Pugh, Head Coach of the England blind football team, said of the draw: “It’s a similar group to the last Euros we played in and we certainly have some old scores to settle. In football, England and Germany share a great rivalry; however they’re an up and coming team that we should beat.”

The official draw for the Championships was made by Sir Philip, accompanied by Tony Larkin, Director at RNC and former Head Coach of England and Team GB blind football squads, and Jeff Davis, Head of Disability Sport at the FA and IBSA representative.

The FA recently announced an additional £1 million of funding for blind football over the next two years, and with the tournament taking place at RNC, one of England’s regular training grounds, it is hoped that the team is in a strong position to finish in one of the coveted top two places and participate in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Dave Clarke, former England and Team GB blind football captain, talked about his hopes for Rio, stating: “When I was young, there were no pathways to play for school, club or country; there has been a lot of effort gone into creating blind football as a formidable sport. What is important is what we do now. It’s vital that not just Hereford but the whole country gets behind the Euros in 2015. Let’s give our own team a fantastic chance of winning not just this tournament but also the Paralympics in Rio.”

The College has a rich sporting heritage, creating pathways into elite competitions and national team representation. Immediately prior to the draw it officially launched its Sports Academy, the first in the UK for visually impaired people. Ambassadors Des Kelly, sports presenter, and Danny Mills, former professional footballer and sports commentator, were joined by Dave Clarke in his capacity as Academy patron, and RNC students past and present. Sports available at the Academy include blind football, goalball and VI golf.

The 10th IBSA Blind Football European Championships take place at thePoint4, RNC’s fully accessible and multi-purpose sports facility, in August 2015. Tickets will go on sale in December via the event website, www.blindeuros.co.uk. Further information on the Sports Academy can be found on the RNC website

Article written by Anika Backhouse, PR, Publications & Outreach Officer at RNC