“As none of us has ever worked through this before, we need to come together to share good practice and learn from one another about unexpected consequences to give all disabled fans the best possible experience at these very difficult times.” – Jo, MK Dons supporter.
On the week of the 14th of September, Level Playing Field arranged several DSA and Fan forums to discuss the return of disabled supporters to stadiums, and what part Disabled Supporters Associations (DSA) can play in the process. We explored how this season, DSAs can move forward, take the initiative, and build on its membership.
“I am always looking for the ideas and thoughts of others, this way I can support my DSA moving forward” – David, Yeovil DSA (YDSA).
With representation from the Premier League to the fifth tier National League, attendees spoke about their DSAs work during the COVID-19 pandemic, which included virtual coffee mornings, socially distanced visits to stadiums and training facilities, as well as maximising the use of social media to create monthly competitions.
Several DSAs spoke about the difficulty they’ve faced with the switch to new technology, trying to maintain contact with its members, and gaining information from their respective clubs due to furlough and staff cuts.
Other subject matters such as face coverings/masks, personal assistance, and accessible bathrooms were just a couple of the subject matters discussed. All issues were spoken about in a free and supportive environment led by Level Playing Field’s Fan Liaison Officer, Liam Bird.
“I believe that we are all different and have different needs, but sometimes the smallest of issues can be overlooked. By having these meetings and bouncing ideas from each other could and should benefit ALL. As they say, ‘knowledge is power’ and communication is key!” – Suzanne, Leeds United Disabled Organisation (LUDO).
The UK government announced on Tuesday 22nd that all test events had been suspended, and therefore the return of fans will not be moving forward in the near future.
At the time of the forum, the original plan was to see the return of fans in a limited capacity in early October. With this in mind, Level Playing Field invited Watford FC Disability Liaison Officer (DLO), Dave Messenger and Brighton & Hove Albion DLO, Millie Crowhurst, to discuss their clubs plan for the return of disabled supporters. In Millie’s case, what was her experience having been a part of the government’s return of fans scheme back in September, when Brighton became the first football club to invite fans back into its stadium.
Each DLO took the time to answer all the questions from their respective audience.
“Even though Boris has put a pause on the planned return to sport, clubs up and down the country will continue to plan and prep for the safe return of fans, it is our responsibility as supporters to assist our clubs in making sure the wide range of needs of disabled fans as well as fans with health-related requirements, who might never have identified themselves as disabled, are accommodated. By being part of forums like these, DSAs and fans can work together to make sure that when we do return to sport, it is as a collective in the safest environment possible” – Liam, Level Playing Field, Fans Liaison Officer.
It was decided that these forums will become a more regular occasion with the next series of discussions to take place in November. If you would like to take part in the next series of forums, then please email email@example.com.