“I never imagined a situation where our Disability Liaison Team would no longer be able to liaise face-to-face with our supporters. It’s tough and its totally new, but we are adapting.
Now, more than ever, it is crucial for us to stay connected to our fans. Just because football has stopped (for now) it does not mean that we do.
Everton has launched Blue Family, a coordinated outreach and engagement campaign to maintain contact with fans and provide vital support and assistance to some of the most vulnerable, socially isolated and at-risk members of the community in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Club and our charity Everton in the Community are contacting fans and members of the community in greatest need, to deliver focused support including essential food parcel distribution, financial assistance for prescription purchases and delivery, gas and electricity vouchers and mental health support and advice.
Our Disability Liaison Team and staff from the Everton Fan Centre are making hundreds of calls and sending emails to fans to offer assistance and provide a friendly voice, prioritising the elderly and isolated. The response we have received from those we have contacted so far has been moving.
Alongside direct contact, our social media accounts and website are playing a big part – with content now ranging from educational resources for children, cookery and fitness videos, graphics with key messaging, and interactive quizzes, to bedtime stories read by players.
We are posting classic matches on what would be a matchday and encouraging real-time interaction. With supporters from every background, we want to ensure that everybody can connect with the Club in a way that suits them. Our new website accessibility tool Recite Me, which provides text-to-speech capabilities, dyslexia functions, text enlargement, an interactive dictionary, colour themes and translation, supports us in this.
During this period, we have also been able to highlight the fantastic work that our Everton Disability Supporters’ Association (EDSA) members have been doing – before and in response to the current situation.
The football season is fast-paced, and it can be easy to get stuck in the match-by-match cycle of working. As a Disability Liaison Team, we are also using this time to reflect on where we are and what we want to do in the future. We are reviewing our operations, processes and training.
We are feeding this into our business-wide strategy to ensure that Everton is as accessible as we can be, right from recruitment opportunities for disabled applicants to ensuring accessible matchday operations. We are committed to a continual dialogue, and we are welcoming any suggestions from home or away fans via email@example.com
Some of our recent successes have included achieving Disability Confident Leader status and the Advanced Premier League Equality Standard. We are working closer than ever before with EDSA to make matchday as accessible as possible – the group’s membership has increased to nearly 200. We were also proud to be named “Champion of Champions” for our autism friendly approach at the inaugural “Autism Together” Rose Gold awards.
We are using this time to work collaboratively with EDSA, local charities and NGOs to prioritise our work and look at improvements we can make in the coming seasons.
We are talking to our supporters about what is important to them, how we can help, and of course, swapping our favourite footballing moments and memories along the way!
It is an opportunity to go back to our core values and talk about what makes us Evertonians.
We are grateful for this time to reflect and review, but just like our fans, we can’t wait to return to the sport we love once it is safe to do so.
The current situation has reminded me how lucky we are to have some of the most loyal, dedicated and passionate supporters that a Club could ask for. I am proud to be part of the Everton Family.”