Eighteen months ago, Waunarlwydd AFC had a vision to help local older people keep active, but didn’t have anywhere for them to play. Although the club had signed a long-term lease for a four-acre space in the village, only half of it was fit for football. 

“The other half of the space was just unusable,” explains Club Chair Dean Thomas-Welch. “It was a place where you’d have to side-step the dog mess to be honest. But we felt that if we could fix the drainage and tidy it up, we could create a new, second pitch and it would be perfect for our veterans.”

Help has arrived in the shape of a grant of nearly £4,000 from Sport Wales’ Be Active Wales Fund towards the project. The club was successful with their application for funding due to the project’s clear aims of addressing inequalities in sports participation and how it will help Waunarlwydd AFC become more sustainable.

“We have taken a facility and we are turning it into something really positive for the community,” Dean says. “Eighteen months ago, we decided we were going to set up a side for older players. We have men who love playing, love exercising, love being sociable but they perhaps couldn’t keep up with our seniors. And while opportunities for younger players are plentiful, there aren’t as many for older people.

 

“We have players in their forties, fifties, sixties and seventies. Some have vision loss, aches and pains, joint problems – all the usual things that tend to come with age - but the veterans’ section is really inclusive. It means that even if we feel a bit slower than we might have once been, we can still keep active, still play football and enjoy the camaraderie that the game brings.

“The new pitch will mean that our older players can train and play games on any given day and we won’t have to ask them to dig in their pockets for the extra money to cover facility hire. Cost can be a real issue as many of them rely on benefits as their only source of income. A lot of the veteran players have been financially impacted during the Covid lockdowns so money is tight for non-essential activities like football. 

“Lockdown has been hard on everybody, but many of our older players have had to shield. Football is a great way to tackle isolation and we’re looking forward to a time when we can get back out and play.”

The club had already invested into upgrading its existing pitch and developing its changing rooms. 

The grant awarded to Waunarlwydd AFC came from the ‘Progress’ element of the Be Active Wales Fund which provides grants of between £300 and £50,000 to support sports clubs and organisations with their future plans so that they can offer even better opportunities for the nation to be active beyond the Covid-19 crisis.