190. Steve Rich
A 54 year old man from Folkestone runs the UK’s largest Walking Football club enabling older people to continue playing the sport they love.
Steve Rich, who works as a golf course grounds man and a security guard, started to organise Walking Football sessions in February this year after seeing a news item which showed how the sport can improve health in the over fifties. Responding to popular demand, Steve formed The Folkestone Wanderers in May and now runs two weekly sessions every Thursday at Folkestone Sports Centre.
Walking football is one of the UK’s fastest developing sports and is the same as an original game in most ways, however players are required to walk with the ball and are required to keep at least one foot on the ground at all times. Steve set up the UK’s first national tournament for over fifties involving 18 teams from across the country, which culminated in an exciting final on 30th November. The Barnsley side Leggy Mambos became walking football’s first national tournament winners. The game has become so popular that Football Association has formed a steering group to discuss how to take the game forward which Steve sits on.
After successfully setting up The Folkestone Wanderers, Steve realised that there was little being done to link up walking football clubs across the country and share ideas and news. Using his own initiative, Steve created the website Walking Football United in July which has since gone from strength to strength. To date, the website has generated over 110,000 page views and now has 160 active clubs posting information about fixtures, events and the rules of the sport.
Steve has been passionate about the community aspect of walking football; in addition to helping older people to stay physically active, the sport has been credited with aiding the mental wellbeing of players due to its social aspect and a sense of belonging amongst teams. Although Steve encourages participation from all age groups, the game is ideal for older players as the teams tend to be smaller and games are played on smaller Astro Turf pitches which causes less impact on knees and the lower body. It is also a way for injured younger players to continue playing the beautiful game – Steve’s youngest player is 18.
Based on his knowledge and love of the sport, Steve also set up the UK’s first National Tournament for over fifties involving 18 teams from across the country, which culminated in an exciting final on November 30th. The Barnsley side Leggy Mambos became walking football’s first national tournament winners.
Prime Minister, David Cameron, said:
“Not only is Steve helping people from Folkestone get involved in Walking Football, but his work nationally with the Football Association is supporting this burgeoning sport to grow across the country. His love of the beautiful game is clear and is ensuring others can lead fitter and healthier lives. I am pleased to make him the UK’s 190th Point of Light.”
“It is an honour and privilege to receive this award. In accepting this recognition, I hope it may continue to encourage and inspire the numerous other volunteers who give up their time so freely in pursuit of providing invaluable benefit to other people and wider communities.”