Hannah Cockroft: Paralympic star on the FA Disability Cup's "groundbreaking" coverage

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This weekend will see the return of the FA Disability Cup, which gives players within impairment-specific football a chance to play at St George’s Park.

Five finals are scheduled to take place this weekend, including the powerchair, cerebral palsy and partially sighted finals tomorrow, and the amputee and blind finals on Sunday. The Disability Cup is set to be broadcast live on BT Sport for the first time in the competition’s history.

BT Sport’s coverage will be presented by Alex Brooker, presenter of Channel 4’s The Last Leg, five-time Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft, and BT Sport presenter Jules Breach. GiveMeSport Women sat down with Cockroft to discuss her new role.

“Honestly, I’m so excited, like I keep seeing new details about it, and I think just to be involved in something so groundbreaking is massive,” the wheelchair racer said. “The coverage and the accessibility that BT Sport is giving the Disability Cup, is something that we’ve never seen before.

“I’ve been to two Paralympic Games, and we’ve never seen it with audio description and subtitles and sign language, and all these things that normally get overlooked. They’re all boxes being ticked and it’s so exciting to be a part of that.”

Indeed, BT Sport’s coverage of the Disability Cup is nothing short of groundbreaking. On each day, live coverage of all the finals will feature on three BT Sport channels, with each offering different accessibility features.

BT Sport 3 will feature enhanced audio description delivered by an expert based at St George’s Park. In addition, BT Sport Extra 1 will carry British Sign Language, with subtitles available on BT Sport 1. A fourth channel, BT Sport Ultimate, will provide coverage in up to 4K HDR picture quality.

Cockroft pointed out that many people find it difficult to watch sport without these accessibility features, but they are still rarely used during coverage.

“It doesn’t affect you, you don’t think about it, but how many people struggled to watch the match [England vs Denmark at Euro 2020] last night, because there was no audio description or because there was no sign language. I guess you don’t really consider it until it’s out there and these differences are made, and you realise how inaccessible sport actually still is.

“Being a sports fan, you know, it’s difficult to get into the stadiums, they’re not always accessible, it’s hard to get tickets. So many things, and suddenly we’re putting it out there, it’s on the internet, it’s on the telly. It’s got everything that you need so that you can be a part of it.”

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The 28-year-old, who will be competing at her third Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer, hoped BT Sport’s coverage of the Disability Cup would be replicated across all sports.

“It’s not just groundbreaking for Para-sport, it’s groundbreaking for all sport,” she said. “I hope that it’s a sign of times to come really, I hope it’s something that other channels, other sports all pick up on, and they go, that’s a really good idea.

“Let’s get everyone involved, and make sure that sport is for everybody, no matter who you are, what gender, what disability, anything. You can come along and you can enjoy what we do. And that’s kind of what they’re doing here so it’s so cool.”

This will be the fifth edition of the Disability Cup after last year’s competition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Para-sport has been disproportionately affected by the global health crisis, and Cockroft sees this weekend’s event as more important than ever.

“This coverage really couldn’t have come at a better time,” she explained. “Para-sport is struggling at grassroot levels to get people back involved. It’s been a very, very scary time for everyone, but for people with disabilities, it’s been incredibly scary, you know, some losing support, some losing their independence and their freedom, and everything has changed in the last 18 months.

“So, I hope that lots of people tune into this and get the confidence that they can get back out there and that they can come and get involved, you know, it shows a massive step forward for disability sport, having this level of coverage, especially outside of a Paralympic Games. Especially for the Para-football guys, they don’t have an event at the Paralympic Games, so this is massive for them.”

Supporting BT’s work with the Home Nations football associations to advance disability football, BT Sport will broadcast the 2021 FA Disability Cup. Coverage on 17 & 18 July, available for anyone to watch, will carry audio description, sign-language and sub-titles. For more info, visit: btsport.com/disabilitycup

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