Simon O’Brien Ellington, Chairman and Founder of The Charioteers Wheelchair Football Club in Ipswich, has been awarded the monthly Barclays Community Sports Award.
Simon started the club with the help of the Suffolk Football Association, Ipswich Borough Council and the Wheelchair Football Association after his wife Claire – who is a wheelchair user – spotted wheelchair football on the TV and expressed a desire to play.
Early on Simon’s enthusiasm secured two partnerships to support the scheme - one with charity Optua who funded the first two training sessions and another with Novotel Hotel who continue to supply funding for the hall hire and team strips. The hotel was also the venue for the award presentation where the Mayor of Ipswich, Councillor Jane Chambers, showed her ongoing support for the club by presenting Simon with his trophy.
Through Simon’s dedication, Suffolk’s only wheelchair football club was created and now includes a team of 19 players who meet fortnightly. Simon and wife Claire now have FA Level 1 coaching qualifications so sessions can run as professionally as possible.
The Barclays Community Sports Award recognises the outstanding contribution to grassroots sports by individuals and groups across the UK. Presented monthly to complement the Barclays Player and Manager of the Month Awards, the accolade is being delivered in partnership between Barclays Spaces for Sports, the Premier League’s Creating Chances programme and the Football Foundation.
Winner Simon O’Brien Ellington commented: “I am honoured to receive the Barclays Community Sports Award, which I accept on behalf of my wife and our members without whom the club would not exist, and who constantly inspire me to keep working. The prize money will go a long way in securing the club’s future.”
Club supporter Mayor Chambers spoke at the award presentation: “I am thrilled that Barclays Spaces for Sports, the Premier League’s Creating Chances programme and the Football Foundation have recognised Simon’s outstanding achievement in setting up a wheelchair football club in Ipswich. Both Simon and Claire have my utmost gratitude for contributing to the local community in this way.”
Christophe Ughetto, General Manager at the Novotel Ipswich Centre which supports the Charioteers club, said: “Simon has never stopped working to keep the club alive and attract new members. Not only did he need to raise awareness, but he also needed funding, training facilities and equipment. His tenacity, determination and passion for the club have always been second to none even when it became very difficult to secure training facilities.”
Gareth Southgate, who is heading up the judging panel for the award, said: “The quick growth of the club and the commitment of the players is testament to the outstanding contribution from Simon, and of course his wife Claire, in getting this fantastic team up and running.”
Each monthly winner will receive £1,000 for their group or organisation, a limited edition trophy and will be entered into the end of season award to win a further £5,000, all donated by Barclays Spaces for Sports. The end of season award winner will also receive a VIP trip to London to receive their award from Gareth Southgate.