Blackburn Rovers Community Trust have received a generous grant from the Ministry of Defence Covenant Fund to expand their walking football programme into six local boroughs.
A five figure sum from the government department's charitable arm will allow the Community Trust to expand delivery beyond the current weekly sessions at the Blackburn Rovers Indoor Centre, with new chances to play being developed for Blackburn with Darwen, Chorley, Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Rossendale and South Ribble.
Though the competitive form of the game is being developed along the lines of over 50s and over 60s competitions, making that age group the natural target audience, the sessions will be open to all, regardless of age or gender, with an emphasis on ensuring that each one takes place in an area where it can be easily available to former members of the armed services and their families, to keep them exercised following their active service.
David Dunwell, head of Premier League programmes and quality assurance at BRCT, has been instrumental in reaching the agreement with the MoD and says that work is now quickly progressing to identify the ideal locations to deliver the new walking football opportunity. He explained:
"We have already chosen a number of locations that we feel would be ideal to help expand walking football, especially in terms of making it easy for access for those who have served in the armed forces. We hope to be able to finalise a number of venues and start dates within the coming days and weeks to take full advantage of this great opportunity.
"We are very grateful to the Armed Forces Covenant for making this Covenant Fund grant available to us and also for agreeing an arrangement with us for these sessions to be inclusive, so that everybody in the area has the chance to sample this fast-growing form of the game. Our friends at Fulwood Barracks were also instrumental in alerting us to this opportunity and providing us with some excellent leads to help us with our application, so our thanks go to them for helping us to make this happen.
"Hopefully, over time, we can use these chances to create new teams representing their local areas, so that our catchment area becomes a hotbed of walking football."
The news comes days after an excellent event in the same sport at the BRIC, where Jack's Walkers won our qualifying tournament to represent us at the EFL Trust Walking Football National Tournament. In a close contest, which saw the first five games end as draws or single goal victories, they beat Rovers Roamers 5-0 in a winner-takes-all final fixture to claim the crown.
Longer term, it is hoped that additional teams may choose to enter similar central tournaments at our Indoor Centre, becoming a hub where all the walking football groups from around our area can come together for a variety of tournaments or festivals.
News of the locations and times for each new walking football venture will be revealed over the coming weeks.