England Deaf Women’s Advocate Claire Stancliffe says it “really shocks me deeply” that her “hero” Steven Gerrard has donated £5,000 to raise funds to take the team to the World Cup in September in Malaysia.
The campaign was launched after the Football Association announced last month that it would shift focus and funding for the deaf women’s national team from the 11-a-side football format to futsal.
The overall target is £100,000, with half of what is required by the end of June. The Deaf Football and Sports Foundation has set up a fundraising page and over £13,000 has been raised so far, including donations of £5,000 each from former England and Liverpool captain Gerrard and former international teammate and Manchester United defender Gary Neville.
Stancliffe, who grew up a Reds fan, told the PA news agency: “Steven Gerrard is my hero. When I was younger, I just wanted to watch Liverpool play, and Steven Gerrard was the player I wanted to be.
“I had the same boots as him, so I was a midfielder and scored goals like him. So, from a very young age, I’ve watched him, I’ve wanted to be like him. I always wanted to meet him, I still haven’t made it! And to know that he has donated, it really impacts me deeply.
“That was quite an emotional message to receive (when told about Gerrard’s donation).”
Neville is involved again, having previously donated £20,000 for Great Britain to attend the 2017 Deaf Olympics in Turkey.
World, European and Deaf-Olympian bronze medalist Stancliffe was part of that team, saying of Neville: “I sent him a message saying, ‘Is there any chance you could share our fundraising page?’
“He came back and said: ‘I’ll share it and I’ll give you £5,000 too.’ That was lovely of her. What he has done for us, I am very grateful for that”.
The 34-year-old said she felt “positive” about the £50,000 target, adding: “We have the fundraising page, that’s our main focus, but at the same time we’re working hard behind the scenes to secure a sponsorship. “. deal with someone.”
Regarding the FA’s announcement, Stancliffe said: “Obviously as a player I am disappointed with the decision the FA made but I fully respect what they have done and for me the big focus now has to be getting that team to Malaysia. ”
The FA said in its announcement that the change followed “consultations with existing players and staff within the England deaf women’s team and the broader performance programme, along with key discussions with stakeholders representing the deaf football community.” .
He said the decision addressed “the need for a new approach to the road, and to ensure there are regular international opportunities for players to perform on the world stage,” adding that it “reflects decisions made by other nations that are respected in international deaf”. football and futsal provision, with deaf women’s futsal being the game format preferred by a growing number of nations”.
Catherine Gilby, the FA’s head of skydiving, told PA there were concerns about the potential competitiveness of an 11-man England squad and the depth of international competition.
Gilby added: “At the moment, it is a grassroots challenge that we must work with our partners in the FA to address, and we are committed to doing so. We still have a role to play in making sure that if 11 is what some deaf players want to play, there is an avenue to do it.”
Following the FA’s April announcement, Great Britain Deaf Football said it was now supporting England Deaf Women to send a team to Malaysia, adding: “(A) a recent survey of deaf women of 11 per side carried out by GBDF indicated that there was a lot of interest and commitment to compete in the 2023 World Cup, the 2024 Euro Cup and the 2025 Deaf Olympics when possible.”
GBDF announced Lauren Asquith, who previously worked in the FA’s para-football organisation, as the team’s head coach for the World Cup and Euros on Sunday.