Photo of SHCFA staff member and referee Russ Lagden

Referee Russ raises the flag for clubfoot awareness

Read how a SHCFA staff member is inspiring others with clubfoot

For clubfoot awareness month, Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA referee appointment officer, Russ Lagden, is aiming to show young people with clubfoot that the condition doesn’t have to stop them pursuing a sporting passion.

He is heading down to Chelsea FC’s training ground on Saturday 8th June to officiate at a national clubfoot football event.

The event, which is held annually, raises awareness of clubfoot and money for two charities: Global Clubfoot Initiative and Steps Charity.

It’s held in June to coincide with the birth of Dr Ponseti who developed the Ponseti treatment, the non-surgical method of correcting clubfoot that has become the orthopaedic standard treatment.

Russ, who was born with clubfoot, is currently a referee in the County FA’s Pan-Disability league but has been playing and coaching football for many years.

He got involved in in mainstream football firstly as a coach at Middlewood Rovers and then went on to become a referee due to a shortage of referees.

He said: “I had a season ticket for Spurs back then, but when Middlewood Rovers put me through the referee course, I just thought I might as well get paid to referee rather than pay to watch.

“I started refereeing youth football and I enjoyed it so much I moved into adult football. I have officiated in local leagues, and even got the chance to referee in the FA Women’s National league.

“I was recently asked to officiate in the Pan-disability league and I fell in love with it. It’s for people that want to play in an environment where other people understand each other’s conditions.”

Russ has been refereeing grassroots football for 18 years

Clubfoot, or talipes, is the most prevalent birth defect. Globally, 200,000 babies are born with the congenital condition each year – that’s around one every three minutes.

It happens because the Achille’s tendon is too short, resulting in one or both feet turning inward and downward. Without treatment, everyday tasks such as walking, standing and running can be a significant challenge.

But Russ says it’s never affected his ability to play football.

“The severity is different for everyone that has clubfoot. I have different sized feet and leg lengths. This means I have a limp but it doesn’t stop me from running or refereeing.”

This will be Russ first time refereeing at the World Clubfoot Day at Chelsea FC’s training ground.

He hopes he can continue to raise awareness of the condition and is encouraging everybody involved in football to create an inclusive game for all.

He added: “Nearly one in five people in the UK have some form of disability, so even in mainstream football you’re likely to be playing with or against a disabled person.

“Just be kind, have empathy and always welcoming. The game is for all and we can all play a key role in ensuring everybody has a great experience when playing the beautiful game.”

For more information visit the Global Clubfoot website:

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