Christopher McGrath - Skipton Walking Football Q&A
Christopher McGrath - Skipton Walking Football Club
As part of our new Inclusion Ambassador Programme, we spoke with the founder of Skipton Walking Football Club Christopher McGrath who found his passion again for football through Walking Football.
What’s your background in Football?
I was born in Bradford and played school football as well as playing for Bradford Albion and Bradford Villa. When I joined the RAF, I represented the RAF at football and after life in the RAF, I played semi-professional for a team in South Wales. I then moved to North Lincolnshire and played football up until the age of 37. Then like most players aged over 35, recovering from matches took longer and longer, so I threw away my boots and retired from the game aged 38.
How did you start playing Walking Football?
I lived in Baildon and became aware of Walking Football so I went to play weekly with a club a few miles away. I started enjoying playing football again and became hooked on the sport so I got back in to the habit of playing on a regular basis.
What made you start the Walking Football sessions of your own?
In 2016, I moved to Skipton and there was no walking football clubs locally, so if I wanted to play, I had to travel a fair bit to find a session to take part in. I was retired, so with my spare time i decided to start up and run a Walking Football club in my local area. In March 2018 Skipton Walking Football Club was formed and we’ve not looked back since.
What were the biggest problems you faced trying to set up your sessions?
My first problem was to find where the money would come from to pay for equipment. I estimated that the minimum equipment costs would be just over £150 and I could personally fund this amount out of my own pocket and that players fees and any grants would compensate my initial outlay. I sourced an online football kit / equipment company and shopped around to get the best possible deals. We also became a part of the Just Play programme that the FA runs so that also helped us once we were up and running.
Another problem I had was to decide how I would get this initiative out there for others to see. Initially, it felt like there was loads to do, but ultimately it wasn’t too difficult or time consuming. A bit of advice I would give to anyone starting up is, if you are going to source external funding, then to start this process ASAP. There’s always hoops to jump through, and the process can be lengthy so you need to start as soon as you can. Then you need to advertise and communicate the new start up club as early as possible (flyers, posters in local stores, shops, popular places where over 50’s tend to frequent and on social media etc).
In terms of Insurance – initially try and play under the Sports Centre’s insurance policy (discuss your arrangements with the chosen sports centre i.e. recreational group playing football). When you know you have sufficient interest then obtain your own clubs’ insurance possibly through the Football Association.
What are your sessions like now? How many people turn up?
We have 70 registered players; our club is open to players to just turn up as and when they can. We play Monday 12- 1pm with about 20 players and Thursdays 7 - 8 pm with 24+ players (all dependent on weather, holidays, injuries / illness and availability).
What’s been your biggest success with your sessions?
I’d say the biggest success is to have a growing club catering for an ageing population and just seeing players between 50 and 81 playing football, having a laugh, fun and getting fit at the same time.
What are your future plans for the Club?
The targets for 2020 are to get 100 players registered and to provide jackets with the club badge and players names for all players. I also want to advertise more and have more social events for participants as that’s also a great by-product of what we do.