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Rugby legend Rory Best launches Include project for disabled young people

Rugby legend and Sported ambassador, Rory Best, has launched Sported’s Include project at Portadown Rugby Club.

The charity, that supports grassroots sports groups across the UK to survive so that young people thrive, will be supporting four groups in Northern Ireland to become more accessible for disabled young people.

Rory spent the morning with young people involved in the Portadown Panthers, a tag rugby group for young people with learning disabilities.

He also had the chance to chat to the Panthers’ coaches including head coach Ian Flack, and Ricky Mehaffy and Harry Doyle from Sported.

There is a lack of opportunities for young people with disabilities in sport.

People with a disability in Northern Ireland exercise significantly less than those without a disability: 19% of people with disabilities participate regularly in physical activity, compared with 37% of non-disabled adults.​Sported’s aim for its Include project is to see more young people with disabilities participating in sports and as a result, have increased self-confidence, and feel less restricted in their aspirations​.

Sported aims to achieve this by building the capacity of four groups in Northern Ireland, upskilling their group leaders and volunteers in relation to disability inclusion activities, and providing leadership development opportunities for young people passionate about disability inclusion in their sports groups.

Sported will work in partnership with Disability Sports Northern Ireland (DSNI) to train, support and guide the groups and young people as we aim to reduce the barriers and increase the accessibility to community groups for young people with disabilities.

Rory Best, Sported ambassador and former captain of the Ireland national rugby union team: “I am honoured to support the launch of this wonderful project on behalf of Sported. It was great to spend time with the Portadown Panthers, which is a tag rugby club for young people with learning disabilities. It is so evident just how much they all get out of their club. Everyone can benefit from being involved with sport and physical activity, so it is vital that we make sport and physical activity accessible for everyone.”

Ricky Mehaffy, National Manager – Northern Ireland, Sported: “We are delighted to launch our Include project, funded by St James Places, with the support of our ambassador Rory Best, here at Portadown Rugby club. Working in partnership with DSNI we will be helping community sports groups become more knowledgeable and accessible for young disabled people to redress the imbalance of the lack of sporting opportunities that currently exists for young disabled people. If you know of a group that would like to apply to be involved in the Include project, please get in contact with Sported, emailing

Sheldon Coulter, St James’s Place: “We are delighted to fund this important project that aims to help groups become more inclusive and accessible to young people with disabilities.”

Sported is the largest sport for development network in the UK. Sported helps more than 2,600 community sport and youth groups use the power of sport to transform the lives of disadvantaged young people through tackling a number of social issues – wellbeing, inequalities (including disability) and community cohesion.

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