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BAFA launches new Wheelchair American Flag Football format

Sunday, July 8, 2018

BAFA, in association with Gravesend Dynamite Wheelchair Sports Club, announces the launch of its official school-focused and inclusive and non-contact Wheelchair American Flag Football format

Although designed to support BAFA’s award-winning* offer in the School Games, this exciting format is suitable for any wheelchair sports club to play. It is inclusive, as whilst players must be in wheelchair, they do not have to be wheelchair users.

NGB schools’ lead, Rob Rooksby said, ‘A great deal of very intensive work was conducted between BAFA and Gravesend Wheelchair Sports Club and in particular Jason Owen, a wheelchair Rugby 7s player and England Team coach. It has been a long-held ambition of BAFA to create such a format but one that was distinct from wheelchair rugby. The format developed through an attempt to preserve the spirit and function of the standard flag game with what is possible to do in a wheelchair. Working around some basic Laws of Physics was just the start of the challenges!

The key aim was to preserve the tension and explosive elements for Receivers and, the pursuit element for DBs chasing-down a ball-carrier. Apart from drawing on Jason’s extensive knowledge and understanding of wheelchair sport, the members of the Dynamite Club were encouraged to challenge and contribute to the different elements of the game, thus the format evolved (and will continue to evolve) though player’s experience of actually playing the game, rather than a theoretical belief in what might work. It has been a true team-effort!

If a school only has a small number of wheelchair users and maybe not enough to run a specific sport, with this inclusive format although participants have to play in wheelchairs, they do not have to be wheelchair users. Wheelchair users joined by non-wheelchair users will enjoy a greater opportunity to engage with sport and their peers in a sporting context. With the appropriate support and delivery, there will be more opportunities to encourage respect and understanding for wheelchair users and provide much greater opportunities to meet Play Unified ideals. It may also allow schools to apply for funding for equipment (wheelchairs) and for improvements in facilities (upgrading sports hall floors and facilities?). This could also be used to encourage and develop wider community links and opportunities

To bring American Football onto the same playing field as most other NGBs, it must have a wider vision and more inclusive offer than just standard 11v11 or 5v5 (flag or kitted). School sport in increasingly moving toward inclusive and adaptable sports that put the needs of the child or children before any other consideration. Working with the Youth Sport Trust, I have learnt a great deal about finding ways to remove barriers to participation – having a ‘fixed-format’ for American Football is an example of a barrier that places the needs of the format ahead of the needs of the children. There should always be the maximum opportunities for all children to develop throwing, catching and tagging skills, rather than just running skills. This new, wheelchair format is one such way that allows BAFA to create that ‘wider-vision’ of the sport that it needs within schools and allows more children to have the opportunity to play the sport.

A promotional video is available and ‘A Guide to Non-Contact Wheelchair American Flag Football’ is available to download for free at in the Touchdown Programme Area. To register your club in the first instance, contact BAFA’s Touchdown Team Wheelchair Lead, Jason Owen on


School Games