What is visually impaired football?
There are two versions of football for people with sight loss.
- Blind football: Only B1 classified players can compete (completely or almost blind athletes).
- Partially sighted football: B2, B3, B4 and B5 classified players can compete (athletes with some level of sight).
While the core game remains the same as sighted football, there are a few alterations to make football accessible to people with visual impairments:
- 5 players per team
- 4 blind, outfield players and 1 sighted goalkeeper
- Ball bearings placed in the ball and make a noise when moving to allow players to locate the ball
Partially sighted football:
- Uses a smaller and heavier size 4 football
- Played on an indoor pitch
- 5 partially sighted players per team
Taking part in visually impaired football is a great way to be active and meet other people with sight loss. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced player, the football clubs will be happy for you to join.
How do I get involved with visually impaired football?
You can find your nearest blind and partially sighted offers on the FA’s Football Finder tool: https://find.englandfootball.com/.
You can contact your County FA for opportunities in your area: https://www.thefa.com/about-football-association/who-we-are/county-fas
You can also search on the BBS Activity Finder: https://britishblindsport.org.uk/activity-finder/
Blind football uses an adapted ball with panels stitched in that have metal shards that create a noise as it rolls across the playing surface for the players to be able to hear and locate. All outfield players must wear eye patching and eye shades to ensure a level playing field as some players may have a little light or shadow perception. To facilitate the running of the game, sideboards are placed along the length of pitch to keep the ball in play and provide a reference point for the players when they are on the pitch.
Partially sighted football uses a futsal size 4 ball in a colour that clearly contrasts the pitch and lines. It should be played indoors under constant lighting.
Pathways and Competition
The National Blind Football League has been in existence for a number of years and provides a competitive exit route for adult players within the training clubs.
Currently, fixtures take place on a monthly basis between October and March with an annual cup competition at the end of the season. You can visit the league website here: https://bit.ly/36nN175
There are numerous partially sighted teams across England, alongside a range of turn-up-and-play recreational opportunities for those who prefer a more relaxed kick-around. There is a national league that caters for adult teams with fixtures taking place at a variety of central venues on a monthly basis.
To find out more about the league contact PSFLSecretary@hotmail.co.uk or visit the website here: http://www.partiallysightedfootballleague.com/about-us/
To play blind football internationally players must be classified as B1 – completely blind. Domestically, the National Blind League has introduced a classification that allows players on the lower end of the B2 category to be classified as B1b and participate in the league. This is for athletes whose sight loss stops them from playing competitively in partially-sighted football but are not eligible for international blind football.
For partially sighted football, in order to play internationally, players must be classified as B2 or B3 however this is extended to include B4 and B5 domestically. Goalkeepers may be fully-sighted or partially-sighted.
For more information about classification, visit the BBS Classifications page here: http://www.britishblindsport.org.uk/classification/
This football resource helps coaches support people with a visual impairment on and around the football pitch. The extensive resource provides recommendations from making football sessions accessible to how to progress through the FA's pathways. The resource also offers support to parents and guardians of children with sight loss.
Created with the Scottish FA, this new guide contains the specific information needed to assist anyone who is delivering football activities with support, ideas and guidance on how to include people with a visual impairment.
Partially Sighted Football: https://www.thefa.com/get-involved/player/disability/grassroots-disability-football/partially-sighted-football