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The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is to fund new Ulster University research into how the European football industry actively engages people with disabilities.

The research aims to better inform sports policy and enhance participation in the sport both on and off the pitch. It will explore factors that facilitate inclusion of people with disabilities in spectating, playing and the administration of football.

The research also aims to help tackle the under-representation of people with disabilities in football, highlight the contribution they make to the sport and improve their overall health and wellbeing.

The University’s research will also investigate best practice of disability engagement by stakeholders such as governing bodies, clubs and disability sport organisations, and produce recommendations to further promote access and participation.

Lead researcher, Paul Kitchin from Ulster University’s School of Sport said: “Research suggests that approximately half a million disabled spectators regularly attend matches at European football stadiums. While significant progress has been made by the industry to cater for disabled spectators, there is still a long way to go to make the sport truly inclusive in roles both on and off pitch.

“This research will allow us to better understand how clubs, governing bodies and charity organisations across Europe are engaging with people with disabilities, and in doing so it will allow the industry to learn from the best. The aim is to remove barriers for people with disabilities to get involved in football and help address European policy that stipulates that all residents should have access to sport.”

UEFA has provided Ulster University with £11,000 of funding to support the research. The research is supported by the Irish Football Association.