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May 28, 2014

Team of deaf footballers in danger of being relegated down two divisions

Spare a thought for Birmingham Deaf FC (BDFC), who are facing the prospect of being relegated down not one but two divisions by their local amateur FA after finishing the season on minus points, having lost all but one of their games and conceding 164 goals in the process.

BDFC lost 25 of their 26 matches and finished bottom of the Birmingham AFA Saturday League fifth division, regularly conceding over 10 goals a game and also having nine points deducted after the season for failing to turn up for three of their fixtures -- leaving them with a final points tally of minus-six.

That said, BDFC do have a fairly good excuse as, you see, all of their 30-man squad are profoundly deaf (hence the name), meaning that most of their players are completely unable to hear the referee's whistle.

The club apparently requested that all of their designated match officials use flags as well as whistles to signal fouls, etc., but it would appear that referees routinely failed to do so, leaving the players unable to ascertain when play had stopped.

Club secretary Guy Whieldon, who is also deaf, told the Birmingham Mail:

"Most lads feel officials are not geared-up for a deaf team due to communication breakdowns, which causes difficulty.

"The referees are supposed to wave flags while, at the same time, blowing a whistle.

"Most referees forget to wave or simply don't want to use a flag."

According to a player from recent opponents Sutton United, who beat BDFC 10-0 both home and away this season, also told the Mail: "The ref would blow for a stoppage and they would continue to play."

BDFC also compete in a local specialised deaf league but found the standard of their opposition to be largely unchallenging, so they entered the Birmingham AFA Saturday League this season to help improve their play.

Club secretary Whieldon, 26, has refused to blame the Birmingham AFA for their strict sanctions, admitting that his team were largely to blame for their shortcomings:

"I can't fault the AFA [for docking us points]. It was due to poor commitment from our lads as the average age of the team was 22 and our oldest player is 30.

"We wanted to start in division seven and learn, but the AFA decided to put us in division five.

"Also, we have 36 players on our books. Half came to play, and the side was different for every fixture."

"We played in the Birmingham AFA to raise our standards for deaf fixtures.

"Currently, I have no idea if we'll continue in the league; that depends on the lads."