INSIGHT: Sevenoaks Powerchair Football Club

At the turn of the century, powerchair football didn’t exist. Initially, early versions of the game were played in Canada, France, Japan and the USA in the 1970’s & 80’s with differing rules.
The first experiences for English players took place in the early 00’s, consisting of half a car tyre (manually sawn in half) tied to everyday electric powerchairs, trying to move a giant 50cm football!

The first official rules of the game were adopted in 2005, creating a format that is used across the world. To date, the game is played by more than 25 countries across 5 continents and has been shortlisted for potential entry into the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris.

Sevenoaks PFC originated from Valence School, students played the early version of the game as part of their extracurricular activities. Representing the school externally, a team was selected to take part in the early years of national powerchair competition, named the Valence Vikings.

This continued until 2012 when a full time development officer was employed at the school to develop the game both internally and across Kent.

The Sevenoaks Mayor, Roderick Hogarth, invited his counterparts from all over Kent to meet the Powerchair team recently at the Sennocke Centre

Steps were taken to create a community team, providing other disabled people outside of Valence School with the opportunity to take part, whilst retaining a school team for students to participate in.

Valence Vikings officially became Sevenoaks Powerchair Football Club for the 2012/13 season after affiliating with Sevenoaks Town Football Club. STFC have continued to support the powerchair teams since then and have played a massive part in the development of the powerchair set up.

Year on year the club has developed, both on and off the pitch.

Off the pitch the club made the decision to become a charity, enabling them to source funds from different avenues to ensure their sustainability. This took place in 2015 and during this time the club have secured more than £40,000, primarily to fund new football powerchairs and running costs to continue to provide activity for their players.

On the pitch improved league finishes at national league level and increased local awareness resulted in the creation of a powerchair development squad in 2014, providing younger and less experienced players with the opportunity to learn and play the game.

In the 2015/16 season the club celebrated their first promotion to the WFA Premiership division via the play-offs, after finishing 3rd in the Championship.

During the summer of 2016 the team also competed at European level. The European Powerchair Football Association (EPFA) hosted their inaugural development tournament at Sevenoaks School. Facing Austria, Germany and an Irish u16 squad, Sevenoaks won the tournament, beating Ireland 2-1 in the final.

Sevenoaks Powerchair’s coach, Adam McEvoy, goes through some detail in a training session

Although the 2016/17 season ultimately ended in relegation back to the Championship, the club still achieved firsts – both on a team and individual basis. The national league squad reached the semi-finals of the WFA Cup, narrowly losing 1-0 to Villa Rockets. The development squad secured regional silverware, winning division 2 of the South East regional powerchair football league, highlighting their progress and development.

On an individual level Kyle Alexander became the first Sevenoaks player (both SPFC and STFC) to represent England, winning 3 caps at the 2017 FIPFA World Cup at just 16 years old – a competition which saw England finish in 3rd place.

Last season was the most successful in the club’s short history. Bouncing back from relegation, the national team won the Championship title, remaining unbeaten. The development side also secured promotion to division 1 of the regional league, meaning both Sevenoaks squads will face each other competitively for the first time.

This season has already started positively. In May the club were announced as the Sevenoaks Mayor’s charity of the year, which will help with additional fundraising and increasing the profile of powerchair football locally. Recently the club held a demonstration event, attended by various mayor’s and dignitaries from across Kent. Some tried their luck at the game, even the town mayor was seen testing his skills in a powerchair!

On the pitch the national squad welcomed Kai Shah from Watford based, Evergreen PFC, strengthening their squad in preparation for their league campaign.

Sevenoaks return to the Premiership on September 15th, playing against West Bromwich Albion, Aspire and Leeds PFC. The following day they face Nottingham PFC and Sale. Ultimately their aim will be to retain their league status and compete with the very best players in the country.

The club welcome people who wish to learn more about the game, with training sessions open for guests and spectators. They would also welcome those who may be interested in coaching powerchair football.

For more information on Sevenoaks Powerchair Football club please visit their website – www.sevenoakspfc.org.uk