Father claims 13-year old deaf girl was forced to leave local football club after being isolated

Posted on March 31, 2015

The father of a 13-year old deaf girl from Leicester has claimed that she was forced to leave her football club after being left isolated by club officials and players.

Nick Ashford says that he felt “heart broken” watching his daughter struggle to understand what she was being asked to do and eventually being ignored by her team mates who stopped passing the ball to her.

Bethan Ashford is profoundly deaf and uses British Sign Language as her main form of communication. She has limited useful hearing and can also lipread.

wp_20150323_18_06_45_proBethan began playing football at the age of eight for local team Cosby United, with the assistance of her father who would interpret the coach’s instructions.

He claims he was forced to withdraw her from the club after officials made no attempt to help Bethan or tackle the growing problem of her isolation in the team.

“It was bearable before because the kids and coaches were communicating and involving Bethan; but things change,” said Nick.

“They stopped involving her with the little conversations they were having. I could see that she wasn’t going to get the ball passed to her either. They were ignoring her in that respect as well. Bethan was just on her own all the time.”

Nick says he was desperate to improve the situation for Bethan. He bought sign language football cards to help the coaches communicate and suggested the kids learn basic sign language greetings, like “how are you,” but nothing happened.


“The club didn’t even photocopy the cards I gave them in the end. They didn’t want to use them so they were eventually just given back to me.”

“They never took anything on board, they just kept on communicating to Bethan like she could hear perfectly, so she was often completely left out.”

“The club’s welfare officer was supposed to bring us all together but didn’t act even though I raised Bethan’s predicament with her. We just had to leave for the sake of Bethan’s self-esteem.”

Cosby United is accredited as an FA Charter Standard Club which means that they abide by an equality policy among other policies and practices developed to offer players and parents assurance about the management of the club.

The equality policy states that the club will not discriminate against people with disabilities, the club is committed to a policy of equal treatment and to take positive action where inequalities exist.

Nick claims that the club ignored their own policy and did little to make allowances for Bethan.

In a statement, Mark Cox, the Vice Chairman of Cosby Juniors FC said:

“You can be assured that the club’s Equality Policy which has been ratified by the FA is adhered to at all times.

“Whenever a child joins a team with a disability if we feel it is appropriate we will invite a parent if they so wish to become part of the Coaching team something we did in the case to which you refer. We feel this contributes towards making the child feel welcome and helps with communication. In addition we always make referees aware of any disability and in the case of a player who is hard of hearing we ensure additional communications are allowed from the touchline.

“As a demonstration of this commitment a number of our coaches have attended sessions designed to help coach children with a range of disabilities. We have children both boys and girls in our other teams who have registered disabilities and they are encouraged to play in our mainstream sides. However should parents or children decide they don’t wish to play in our mainstream teams, since April last year, we can offer them the alternative of playing in our inclusive team.

“Clearly, as with any club, we can always improve on the way we do things and therefore we are constantly reviewing our policies and procedures and we welcome input particularly from parents as to how that can be achieved.”

“Finally the club would welcome a conversation with the parent to talk through any issues they may have to be able to retain a player who, after all, is still a member of the club.”

Recently Bethan has joined in training sessions with Great Britain’s Deaf Women’s team and is also regularly selected to represent the East Midland’s Centre of Excellence for deaf footballers.

“I don’t think Bethan or me would be happy going back to Cosby United.” Nick said.

“It was heart breaking as a father to watch Bethan be isolated that way. I wouldn’t put her in that situation again, no.

“There was no hope.”

By Andy Palmer, Deputy Editor

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