Andy Palmer: Setting up and running a Deaf football club. A survival guide

Posted on September 11, 2016

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1. Set it up for the right reasons

I set up Peterborough United’s deaf football teams four years ago because, basically, my son loves football. Oh, and I love Peterborough United. If I didn’t have a family interest or love the club then I wouldn’t be as motivated to see this through.

What began as a bus trip with four deaf kids to a tournament has spiralled into a full-blown deaf football club with more than 50 players.

2. Work with local groups to build your foundations

When we set up the teams we did it as part of the local deaf children’s society and only four boys came along. Then it grew to two mixed teams teams, then three, and then a men’s team, then a women’s team.

But it wouldn’t have been anything if it wasn’t for the local deaf children’s society called PDDCS, and their network of families, to get the ball rolling.

Andy with Marcos Pinto, Qadeer Hussain, Vitor Balde and Will Palmer

Andy with Marcos Pinto, Qadeer Hussain, Vitor Balde and Will Palmer

3. Support another deaf football club rather than set up your own (if you have one close by)

There are 50 County Football Associations and 92 Football League clubs. There are about 20 deaf teams. What does that tell you? That each professional club and each county FA can’t have its own deaf team. There just aren’t enough players to go around. If you set up a new team close to another established team you’ll be giving them a big headache and you’re making your own life more difficult. Why not work together?

4. Be prepared to do everything yourself

It’s nice to have volunteers and at Posh Deaf we have a few really, really, good ones but from time to time life happens, people don’t show up when they should and the buck stops with you. Don’t get mad. It’s going to happen.

5. So try letting go

If things start to take off, you’ll soon have more jobs to do than you have time for. Don’t be afraid to let go and dish out some jobs or set up a committee to help take the strain. You really won’t be able to do it all yourself and stay sane.

6. Don’t measure yourself against the big boys

There are a few big deaf football clubs in the country that have been established for years and years, like St John’s or Fulham from London or Doncaster in the North. It takes years of work to get where they are so don’t beat yourself up if you’ve only got 3 players at training. It will come. After all, St John’s have been going for over 100 years.

So always measure yourself against where you were yesterday not against the best in the country. Celebrate little successes and be content to take things forward one step at a time.

7. Keep promoting what you do online

It’s important to promote deaf football and what your football club does. Celebrate your players and your achievements. If you can do videos or take pictures – do it. Try to build a following online. It can’t hurt and you never know, there could be a brilliant new player who gets involved because they saw your video on Facebook.

8. Get ready for feelings of deep disappointment

Players that you’ve supported can walk away; people who you thought were friends may turn on you; you could be threatened with violence. None of that is unique to football though.

Things like that happen with people in general – so don’t expect your football club to be any different.  The probability is that things could get difficult from time to time but ride it out because the tough times don’t last for long and a good moment is just around the corner.

9. Enjoy the good times

There are some moments that I may never-ever forget. The moment the under 13’s won the NDCS tournament with a golden goal or when we scored our first league goal and the nerves that had given me a sleepless night just hours before disappeared in a heartbeat.

Setting up a football club is a lot of work but a lot of fun. Good luck!

To find out more go to or

Read all of Andy’s articles for Limping Chicken by clicking here.

Andy is the hearing father of a Deaf son, and is also a child of Deaf parents. He is Managing Director of  Cambridgeshire Deaf Association, runs Peterborough United’s deaf football teamsand is Chairman of the Peterborough and District Deaf Children’s Society and teaches sign language in primary schools. Contact him on twitter @LC_AndyP

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