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Tips for deaf-friendly football

Photo: Get tips to make football deaf-friendly

A deaf child may not hear what you are saying and miss out on important information. Consequently, they can misunderstand and make mistakes which can lead to a lack of confidence, frustration, embarrassment and feelings of isolation. But small yet significant changes can help to ensure deaf young people can enjoy football just as much as their hearing peers.


  • Ask the child or young person their preferred communication method. 
  • Get attention before speaking or signing – try waving your hand or a training cone.
  • Stay in one place and keep eye contact.
  • Ensure that the pitch is well-lit for training or matches.
  • Use demonstrations to ensure greater understanding, such as warm ups.
  • Use pre-agreed visual signals for different actions during games or training.
  • Allow time for players to take off or put on hearing technology if required.


  • Speak too slowly or shout! This will distort your lip patterns.
  • Move around the pitch when you are talking.
  • Cover up your mouth or talk with your whistle in your mouth.
  • Talk and demonstrate at the same time.
  • Give up. Try explaining differently, write it down or use pictures.

Working with a communicator

You may find you are working with a BSL/English communicator in your football activities. Here are some tips for good practice:

  • Remember that footballers need to see both you and the communicator.
  • Keep eye contact with the footballer even if the ‘voice’ is coming from the interpreter.
  • Footballers can only look at one place, so can’t watch an activity and the communicator simultaneously. It must be one, and then the other.
  • Allow time for the communicator to finish, and for the deaf child to reply.
  • Use your own communication skills to build a rapport with the footballer.
  • Share the session plan in advance and explain football jargon. 

Officials – refereeing during matches

It is likely that you will come across deaf players when officiating matches. You may not need to change anything, but discuss with the manager and the young person beforehand and take the following into consideration:

  • Ensure the deaf player is looking directly at you before talking to them.
  • Have a brightly coloured bib on the pitch which you can use to signify a stoppage in play.
  • Raise the flag at the same time as blowing the whistle.
  • Ask the assistant referees to raise their flags when the whistle is blown.
  • Be patient if the player does not react to the whistle immediately.
  • Use visual representations when actions are required (such as a throw in).