As a disabled person who uses a wheelchair, I have never been entirely interested in football. There may be a number of reasons for this, but I believe that this is because I have seen the ‘standard’ game as being divisive in helping me make friends and, in turn, because these feelings and my inability to engage in the game first-hand and experience it as a player have meant that I have never really learned to simply appreciate and/or love the game for itself.
So, the minute I saw powerchair football being played and heard more about it I wanted to know more and hoped that some way, somehow, I would be able to engage as a player in the game itself. This has not happened yet for me, as I can't seem to find a group/team that suits me from a social perspective, as all pre-established groups/teams (at least in and around Greater Manchester, at the moment) seem to mainly cater for those people who are pre-19 years of age, unless you are semi-professional and have been engaging in the sport for quite some time, to the point of being considered for the national England team. This is not to say, however, that some groups/teams will not invite you to come along to join their club, only that if you are post 19 years of age and are coming to the game as a novice, you may feel a little bit like a fish out of water and not get the social element you would normally also get out of it, as you struggle relating to the other members.
The groups/teams in and around Greater Manchester are as follows:
Bolton Bullets PFC;
Oldham Wheelies; and
Sale United PFC.
Nonetheless, because of my own personal interest am because I am constantly asked about powerchair football and how it differs from ‘standard’ football, and because I am not au fait with either type of football, I thought I would look into what was mainly involved in powerchair football, as a game, and through research (mainly with the assistance of the Wheelchair Football Association website www.thewfa.org.uk, as well as that of the International Federation of Powerchair Football Associations; www.fipfa.org) have determined the following fundamentals:
A match is played by two teams, each consisting of not more than 4 players, one of whom must be a goalkeeper. A match may not start if either team consists of fewer than 2 players.
Players must be at least 5 years of age and must have adequate control of their powerchairs. The games can be played by both male and female participants.
The referee has the authority to stop a player who is not in full control from participating in a game.
Teams consist of 4 players with up to 4 substitute players. However, the rules of competition may allow a greater number of substitutes.
A greater number of substitutes may be on the team provided that:
The teams concerned reach agreement on a maximum number OR the referee is informed before the match
Object of the Game, Equipment and Playing Field
The game is played by two teams of differently-abled athletes using special foot guards attached to powered wheelchairs as ‘feet‟ to kick a large ball. The object of the game is to manoeuvre the ball over the goal line of an opposing team while preventing them from doing the same.
Players must use lap seatbelts. Leg, feet and chest straps should also be used if these are normally worn. Other authorised equipment may include helmets, headrests, and other assistive or protective technology normally used by the athlete.
The basic size of the field on which the game is played is 28 m x 15 m (that is 94 ft x 50 ft), i.e. the standard size of a basketball court.
The surface of the field must be hard, smooth and level for easy manoeuvrability of the powerchairs. The use of wood or artificial material is recommended, while concrete or tarmac should be avoided.
The field is marked with lines which belong to the areas of which they are the boundaries. The two longer boundary lines are called touch lines. The two shorter lines are called goal lines.
All lines are a minimum of 5 cm (2 in) wide. The field is divided into two halves by a halfway line. The centre mark is indicated at the midpoint of the halfway line. The mark may consist of a 15 cm (6 in) ‘X’ taped securely onto the floor with contrasting/non-damaging tape.
The goal area is marked at the centre of each end of the field, 8 m (26ft) wide and 5 m (16.5 ft) deep.
Goals must be placed on the centre of each goal line. They consist of two upright posts (pylons or cones) placed equidistant from the corners of the court and securely fastened to the floor with non-damaging tape. The distance between the posts is 6 m (19ft 8 in).
The ball is spherical, made of leather, vinyl, or other suitable material that is low friction, 33cm (13 in) in diameter (no more than 35.5 cm (14 in) and no less than 30.5 cm (12 in), and of appropriate pressure so as to minimise bouncing yet prevent powerchairs from riding over it.
If the ball bursts or becomes defective during the course of a match, the match is stopped and/or restarted by a set ball where the ball first became defective.
If the ball bursts or becomes defective whilst not in play at a kick-off, goal kick, corner kick, free kick, penalty kick or kick-in, the match is restarted accordingly.
The ball may not be changed during the match without the authority of the referee.
A player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player. The basic compulsory equipment of a player is:
A jersey or shirt
Shirts of the same colour which contrasts those of their opponents
Shorts or warm-up pants which matches the rest of their team
A powered wheelchair
A clear and visible number
Powerchairs must have 4 or more wheels; 3 or 4-wheeled scooters or similar equipment are not permitted.
The maximum speed allowable during the match for powerchairs is 10 kph (6.2 mph) forward and reverse.
Chairs must not have any sharp surfaces or items that might become entangled with other powerchairs (inc. essential equipment)
Chest, shoulder/head restraints are required equipment for those athletes who need them.
No part of the chair shall be constructed so as to be able to trap or hold the ball.
Additions should be placed on the powerchair which prevent the wheels from trapping, holding, or riding over the ball.
Each match is controlled by a referee who has full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game in connection with the match to which he has been appointed.
The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play are final. Facts connected with play shall include whether a goal is scored or not and the result of the match.
The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee, provided that he has not restarted play.
The assistant referees also assist the referee to control the match in accordance with the Laws of the Game.
The match consists of two equal periods of 20 minutes, unless otherwise mutually agreed between the referees and the two participating teams. Any agreement to alter the periods of play (for example to reduce each half to 15 minutes) must be made before the start of play and must comply with competition rules.
Players are entitled to an interval at half-time which must not exceed 10 minutes.
If this article has assisted in wetting your appetite for powerchair football and you want to know even more, why not also take a look at the Wheelchair Football Association’s YouTube channel which can be found at; www.youtube.com/user/thewfatv.