Farsley Celtic Deaf: Behind the scenes of a Leeds club shining globally and locally

It was a bitterly cold and seemingly insignificant winter evening when The Yorkshire Post visited The Citadel, home of Farsley Celtic.

The modest ground is nestled in the Leeds town of Farsley, a former wool processing hub with a population of around 8,000 according to recent census data.

Farsley Celtic’s men’s first-team compete in the National League North, on the sixth rung of the English football ladder. They were not in action on the evening in question yet the clubhouse was a hive of activity.

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Filled with people of all ages, there were adults catching up over a midweek drink and children in green and white kits pacing around.


Later on in the evening, a British Sign Language lesson was being held at the club. It was not exactly all quiet at the inn.

Away from the hubbub, The Yorkshire Post sat down to chat with Paul Young, who oversees Farsley’s deaf team.

They are a side who have hit headlines, defying the expectations of what a Leeds suburb can achieve on a national stage. In 2022, they featured in the FA Disability Cup Finals live on BT Sport.

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Last year, they went global with an appearance in the Deaf Champions League in Warsaw. To read the list of competing clubs is surreal – Farsley were competing with clubs representing the cities of Paris, Stuttgart and Athens.

Farsley Celtic Deaf have competed on a global stage. Image: Paul YoungFarsley Celtic Deaf have competed on a global stage. Image: Paul Young
Farsley Celtic Deaf have competed on a global stage. Image: Paul Young

Young said: “We're probably the best club in the north, because were on the TV two years ago and again last year. It kind of gives us a platform to build our profile.

"2022 was the first time we were on live TV and people go 'ah, there's some good players'. We're deaf but when we play, it doesn't matter. We know we've got good players and good opportunities.”

In deaf football, referees have a flag they raise when they blow their whistle. It is the only adaptation to the laws of the game and players communicate via British Sign Language or lip-reading.

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No deaf club wanting to function properly can adopt a blanket approach, as those with impaired hearing communicate in different ways.

Young explained: “All the people all around the club are deaf except one, the assistant manager. He is the interpreter, he has deaf family members. Other than that, we're all deaf. We've got players who talk only, sign only. We all have different communication needs.”

Inclusivity is at the heart of Farsley Celtic Deaf and the synergy between the teams they share the Celts umbrella with is evident.

Sign language lessons hosted at the club help to make the wider community more inclusive, while the men's first-team offers opportunity for further footballing challenges.

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Farsley Celtic Deaf goalkeeper Charlie Parker-Fairbairn was introduced to the first-team fold in the summer.

Following the introduction, Farsley’s chairman Paul Barthorpe said: “With the change in the footballing structure at the club, we are looking to create clear pathways from all divisions within the club to create first-team opportunities and exposure.

“We are blessed with a very talented and successful deaf squad, and we will look over the forthcoming weeks to integrate these guys as much as possible into our first-team squad with the goal of progressing these players and provide opportunities that are not available anywhere else.

“Having got to know many of the guys better personally over recent times, I am excited to see them pushing on and developing further as players. They have a winning mentality and have demonstrated this in a Farsley shirt time and time again.”

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The club’s director of football, Pav Singh added: “Charlie, as many of the deaf squad are, is a very talented player, and we will look to help develop and push him to fulfil his potential and see where that can take him.

"The games I have watched him in, I believe he has a strong base skillset that we can help develop him to become a better player.”

Appearances on TV may not be a regular occurrence, nor should they be the primary focus when there is so much admirable work done away from the cameras.

However, they do serve an important purpose when it comes to inspiring deaf children to play football.

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Young works weekly with Farsley Celtic Deaf Colts, formerly known as Leeds Deaf Juniors.

He works with children aged between seven and 14 in order to show there are opportunities for talented players regardless of whether they are deaf or not.

International recognition for key figures at senior level and TV appearances prove helpful for Young when it comes to getting his message across.

He explained: “When players watch this, it shows there is a pathway for them to go and do it. When we were on TV last year, we got the fruit of our labour.”

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At a time when non-league clubs running into difficulties feels unsettlingly normal, clubs below the EFL being part of vital work serves as a timely reminder of their importance.

Young said: “If I turn up for a team, I want the same things - fitness, attitude, listening and learning.

“We have the same values - the first team, women's team, deaf team, kids teams. It can help us. We're a big family here.”