Sam Bell

Community Project of the Year: Sam Bell - South Park Rangers

Sam Bell of South Park Rangers was presented with his 2018 FA and McDonald’s Community Project of the Year Award on Saturday 20 October, in recognition for the club’s fantastic work in establishing a new Autism Development Centre.

South Park Rangers established the centre to allow young people with autism to feel included in football. The sessions are offered free of charge, with both 1-2-1 and group sessions offered to meet the specific needs of individual players.

Throughout the sessions, players are encouraged to strive for excellence and achieve the very best they are capable of. This is achieved through the skills certificates which are awarded to each player. Players can achieve Level 1-5 skills awards by demonstrating competence in key areas, such as passing, heading and tackling.

This project has allowed young people with varying degrees of autism to participate in football. Not only does it allow them to boost their physical fitness and technical ability, but it’s also instrumental in improving the social skills of the young people, many of whom struggle to communicate and work collaboratively with others due to their conditions. This project has now seen 12 young people benefit in just two months, with two players recently deemed ready to progress into mainstream teams at the club.

The impact upon the local community has been profound, with many families contacting the club to request support. South Park Rangers JFC have paved the way in inclusive football practices, with this project the only one of its kind that we are aware of operating a free service for its participants.

Christine Newton, who is a parent of one of the participants, said: “It’s nice to have a place where you can take your child to do a sport they like and can be involved in at a level that’s best for them. Here, everyone understands. They are supportive and you can feel at ease with quirky behaviours rather than being judged. Lucas loves to go and that’s down to the coaches and the help from the older boys. He goes excited and comes back the same.”

By developing a social media presence, the project has been able to reach out to the local grassroots community, thus raising the profile of inclusive football in the area. A recent video shared on the page had over 7,000 views, showing how anybody can be involved in football.

To keep up-to-date with the latest from South Park Rangers’ Autism Development Centre, like their Facebook page or visit 

Over the coming weeks, North Riding FA will be presenting awards to all of its 2018 winners. For further details, keep an eye on and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Sam Bell

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