Britain's deaf football team struggling to find cash to attend Deaflympics

Britain’s most underfunded Olympians are hoping that support from Premier League stars like Jack Butland and James Milner will get them to the Games.

The Stoke keeper and the Liverpool midfielder’s intervention was crucial in taking the men and women’s team to this summer’s Deaf World Cup in Italy, where they finished third.

However, if the teams, who receive no funding from UK Sport, are to make the Deaflympics in Turkey next summer, they need to raise £20,000 in less than three months. 

The Deaflympics is the oldest disability sports competition in the world, predating the Paralympics by 36 years. The first was held in Paris in 1924 and the next Games will be held in Samsun on Turkey’s Black Sea coast next summer. 

However, unless Claire Stancliffe, the captain of the women’s team, can repeat her fundraising heroics that took them to the World Cup, Team GB will be forced to withdraw.

Stancliffe, who plays for Northampton Town Ladies, knows that even if they do make it to Turkey, they face fierce competition from Russia, whose players are on a reported 40,000 euros bonus to win gold. 

“We haven’t really had any funding from UK Sport for the Deaflympics,” she said. “The reason they won’t fund us is that the Deaflympics does not fall under the Olympic/Paralympic pathway. Russia are full-time professionals who travel the world with their training.

“Our target is to raise £125,000 to cover all the costs of attending the tournament – kit, training camps and travel. We must have £20,000 by December to pay the deposits or we won’t be going.

“Our funding link is pinned to our Twitter account (@GB_DeafFootball) and has been shared by Frankie Boyle, Johnny Vegas, Jack Butland, Amy Williams (who won gold in the Vancouver Winter Olympics), West Bromwich Albion, Watford and Neville Southall.” 

Stancliffe’s success in captaining Great Britain to third place in the World Cup and raising the money to take the team to Italy saw her voted sportswoman of the month in July by Sky Sports, beating Wimbledon champion Serena Williams.

However, were it not for interventions from Butland and Milner, the team would never have left Britain.

“In December 2015, we had a meeting and I was told we can’t go to the Deaf World Cup because we had no money. I refused to accept this and proposed that, if I raised £10,000 which at the time was half the cost, in 30 days, we could go. The total cost rose to £35,000.

“I set up a Justgiving crowdfunding page. After about 15 days we had raised £3,000. I was in charge of the GB Twitter account and sent out a lot of tweets to celebrities and footballers with our plea. This included England’s women footballers and their manager, Mark Sampson. Many of these donated to our cause.

“On December 30, my phone went off with a tweet from Jack Butland saying: ‘Now you are nearly there. Happy new year and good luck.’ I quickly loaded our funding page and saw he had donated £5,000. The rest of the day was spent with my phone going off every minute with donations flooding in. 

“Closer to the Deaf World Cup we still had a £5,000 shortfall. Jen O’Neill from She Kicks (women’s football magazine) made contact with James Milner’s agent. 

“James was at the Euros but he authorised a £5,000 donation from the James Milner Foundation. The World Cup was a fantastic experience. We played six games in 10 days. Players took leave from work, college or school to represent Great Britain. Thanks to all the donations we took our strongest-ever squad to an international competition.”

They were denied a place in the final by Russia but beat Poland 2-0 to win the bronze medal. “But now,” said Stancliffe, “We are back to square one.”

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