Openreach launches partnership with pan-disability youth football team

A Watford football club, which helps kids and young adults with various disabilities to play the beautiful game, is teaming up with Openreach, the UK’s largest broadband network.

A new, 12-month partnership will see the digital network company supporting the club, with funding being spent on new kits and equipment.

Everett Rovers FC’s inclusive, pan-disability youth team has more than 50 players who are unable to take part in mainstream football and gives them a chance to enjoy the game they love – a goal in line with Openreach’s commitment to become a more diverse and inclusive business, where everyone feels valued and supported for who they are.

Mark Collins, a finance manager at Openreach, has been involved with the club for around 14 years and has run the inclusive section since it was founded in 2015.

“The team is here because these players love football – but some of them can’t play mainstream football. Most of my players are neurodiverse – with ADHD, Autism, Asperger’s – but I’ve also got players with learning and physical disabilities.

“It improves their self-esteem and confidence, their fitness and mobility, and their social network grows.

“For us, this partnership means I can have all the players turning up in the same kit – and we’ll be turning up with Openreach on our shirts. That’s a massive kudos for us. For Openreach it demonstrates that we’re in the community and focus on diversity in the community."

The new collaboration follows an Openreach partnership launched with Colchester Kings RFC, East Anglia’s first gay and inclusive rugby club, in December 2022.

Following that deal, Openreach’s people networks – which celebrate and represent employees from all backgrounds – chose additional clubs throughout the UK to work with.

The Openreach people networks – Pride, Gender Equality, Ethnic Diversity, Neurodiversity (NDN) and recently-created Able 2 network – were set up to help develop an inclusive workplace, prioritising education and change, and challenging thinking when needed. The people networks have grown significantly since launching and more than 7,000 people are now members of one or more.

Scott Room, Openreach’s director of Brand, Marketing and Digital, said: “We’re proud to be partnering with Everett Rovers Football Club. They’re a great example of the positive impact inclusive sports clubs can have on local communities and people, no matter their background or situation. 

“At Openreach, we’re committed to becoming a more diverse and inclusive business which truly reflects the communities we serve across the UK. As the largest employer of telecoms engineers in the UK, we want to use our size to help make positive changes and improve diversity in the engineering sector and in the communities where we operate.

“Our aim with this partnership is to support a club that is raising awareness of inclusive football and making a difference within the local community. We hope that we can help them smash their goals.”

The company, which is currently extending its Ultrafast Full Fibre broadband network across the UK, is also partnering with Bournville-based Crusaders FC’s youth girls’ teams; Cardiff Dragons, Wales’s first LGBTI+ football club; and Glasgow Saints, an amateur football club which is helping to combat food poverty and isolation in the community.