Maidstone United Raiders provides opportunities for over 120 children and adults with disabilities. The programme has been running since 2004 and has grown to include 15 teams playing in the adult and junior Kent disability leagues, catering for ages ranging from 5 to 65.
Raiders is a non-profit making section of Maidstone United Football Club (MUFC), run by volunteers. The relationship with the wider club provides a unique position to be able to offer players opportunities both on and off the field.
Participants can gain work experience through match day roles for the MUFC first team such as stewarding, cleaning, operating turnstiles and selling programmes. This gives players a valuable chance to interact with fans and build the confidence to take chances they might not necessarily take otherwise. Several participants have been able to use their experiences to gain further employment in sport.
The programme provides a valuable support network for parents and carers. Many families who have children with disabilities are left isolated, but at Raiders they are able to share experiences and interact with others in similar situations.
Players who have been supported are also given the chance to give back to the programme by training to coach or referee, helping to keep Raiders sustainable moving forward. Participants who have grown up with the programme, over the course of the 15 years it has been running, are able to support new players to achieve the same success and help Raiders to continue to grow and develop.