About Us

SportExcel UK supports talented athletes with learning disability in the UK to excel in national and international competitive sport.

SportExcel UK is:

  • The only national disability sports organisation working with people with learning disability across the UK in performance/elite sport.
  • The only official Great Britain member of Virtus, the international federation for athletes with intellectual disability, down syndrome and autism
  • Recognised by UK Sport and a member of the British Paralympic Association.
  • Part of the Paralympic pathway and route to Virtus Global Games.

Our vision is:

“A society that enables people with intellectual impairment to excel and achieve their full potential in the sport of their choice.”

Our strategic priorities are:

• Supporting athletes, talent and performance.
• Eligibility and classification.
• Leadership and communication.
• Changing the culture.
• Governance and infrastructure.

What do we do and who do we work with?

We work with sports governing bodies and other agencies to ensure that athletes with learning disability are included at all levels, with the appropriate support and training needed.

We implement, manage and lead the eligibility and classification system for athletes with learning disability from across the UK and across a number of sports.

We select, manage and support the GB Team at various Championships, including the Virtus Global Games and support the athletes and families to be as prepared for the rigors of international sport. In some sports, we support the National Governing Bodies as they select and manage athletes to Virtus World and European Championships.

We are the organisation that implements, manages and leads the eligibility and classification system for athletes from across the UK.

We work to raise the profile of sport for people with learning disability and raise the profile of the athletes whilst celebrating their successes across the sports. We challenge outdated attitudes to open the way for people with learning disability to have a choice and control in their daily lives. We advocate a cultural change in approach to disability.

An example of our work is our successful campaign to lift the ban on athletes with learning disability competing in the Paralympic Games. The ban came into place after the Sydney 2000 Games due to an incident with the Spanish basketball team.

No athletes with learning disability were allowed to compete at the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games due to the ban. After years of research and campaigning by UKSA (now SportExcel UK) and partners, the International Paralympic Committee overturned the ban in November 2009. As such, athletes with learning disability were re-introduced at the London 2012 Paralympic Games – the first time in 12 years.

As a result of our efforts, we are proud to say that nine athletes with learning disability competed for ParalympicsGB at London 2012. We are now working to help even more to be selected for the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Games.

In the build up to Rio 2016, thanks to funding from Spirit of 2012, a trust set up to sustain the spirit and opportunities from the London 2012 Games, SportExcel UK (formerly UKSA) delivered a programme called My Sport, My Voice! which raised the profile of the UK’s elite athletes with learning disability by providing a platform to showcase their sporting achievements, dispel myths around learning disability and inspire others to succeed.  My Sport, My Voice! also provided one to one sessions and work with athletes themselves and delivered training and education workshops across the UK.