Mark Winder is stood holding a blue goalball and black eyeshades. He is smiling for the camera and wearing a blue Goalball UK top.

Mark Winder, Goalball UK’ s CEO, shares his goalball highlights from the past six years, looking back at the growth of the sport, players, governance and team.

Mark joined Goalball UK in 2017 from Bradford Bulls Rugby League Club after previously working for Wakefield Trinity Rugby League Club and previously working for various Local Authorities.

The growth of the sport and improved levels of competition

Goalball as a sport has continues to grow over the last six years. We have over 25 clubs, reach over 2200 school children per year and continue to attract new partners, funders and players across the board. We are also proud that the level of competition continues to improve as does the levels of presentation at our events.  

This unique sport is capturing the hearts of people both in and out of the blind community here in the UK. 

Since I took up the post, the national competition structure has been transformed. 

We now put on an impressive 33 days of goalball competition per year. 

We operate a three-tier structure with Regional, Intermediate and Super Leagues taking place Sept to July each year. There are also three trophy tournaments including the prestigious Goalfix Cup. 

It has been fantastic to see the Clubs, Competition Committee and staff develop these structures over the years, and I’m excited to see it grow even more. 

The IBSA World Games being held in the UK for the first time gives us a fantastic opportunity to reach new people and get them as hooked as I am! 

The development of new players and clubs

We continue to support the development of our clubs. Individuals in localities have a lot to be proud of for their work in developing their clubs. I am proud of the help we afford these people. We have many initiatives which support giving new people the opportunity to try our sport and only want to continue to enhance these.  

The strengthening of the board and governance 

At Goalball UK we’re governed by a Board of Trustees. During my tenure as CEO I’ve been delighted to work with our Chair John Grosvenor and see new people come onto the board. We have been able to build on the previous work of my predecessor, Mike Reilly, and the previous chair, John Coles to develop our organisational health.  

The continued journey of the talent and performance pathway  

We are now in a transformative period for our High-Performance pathways with funding boosts from UK Sport, Peter Harrison Foundation and Boost Charitable Trust. We are investing more resource and finance into our High-Performance Programme than ever before.  

Gary Fraser recently joined us as High-Performance Lead with Faye Dale already in post as National Talent Lead. Faye has led an improved talent offer, including the #FindTheNext Goalball Academy, which saw us send two teams to European Youth Paralympics and win bronze medals in both the male and female competitions.

Goalball UK’s GB squads are currently in their qualifying cycle for the Paris 2024 Paralympics with eyes on LA 2028. Having missed out on Tokyo 2020 we are working hard to bring GB goalball to the Paralympics once again.

Our work with children and young people 

In 2021-2022 alone we introduced 2200 children to goalball through our schools programme. 

I’m incredibly proud of this as we are not only teaching in specialist schools for blind and visually impaired children but in mainstream schools too. This means the next generation are much better informed about VI sports and goalball itself!  

Working with such a talented group of people in the team and the wider Goalball family

Finally, I couldn’t miss out the wider Goalball UK staff team and the Goalball Family. 

Our staff team has now grown to twelve full time staff with the recent appointment of Gary Fraser, High Performance Lead, Jo Hercberg, Digital and Communications Lead and Charlotte Rooke, Fundraising Lead to the Executive Team. These three posts are all new to Goalball UK during my time as CEO and will help us grow on the international stage plus boost our capability to share our work widely. 

Longer serving staff are at the heart of Goalball UK. Even with six years under my belt I am a relative newbie compared to the likes of Kathryn Fielding, Alex Bunney and Faye Dale!

Ultimately everything we do is for the Goalball Family. It’s a common theme in the goalball world that everyone knows each other by first name. From player to coach to Finance Director and chair we are united in our mission to transform the lives of blind and partially sighted people through goalball.