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Level Playing Field Round Up January 2014

The “Working Together” project has now entered its third year and we are proud to report it has already delivered many successful Disabled Supporters Associations (DSAs). We are confident that the Working Together templates produce sustainable groups and we thank everyone who has been involved to date. We currently have a number of clubs going through the process towards their first Annual Meeting and several more groups are in the early stages of being set up. Access & Development Manager, Ruth Hopkins was delighted to be invited to Norwich City DSA’s first Annual Meeting in December and to talk about LPF and later share a platform for a Q&A session with NCFC Chief Executive, David McNally.

Following on the success of the South West Disabled Supporters Forum and the hard work by David Munn (Yeovil Town FC) and LPF Trust Board member, Nick Saunders (Exeter City FC), we are pleased to report that Leicester City DSA are leading the process of planning the first Forum in the Midlands. We are talking to clubs in the other areas about a similar initiative. These events are the perfect opportunity to share best practice and celebrate the work they are doing.

Chair, Joyce Cook, OBE and Ruth Hopkins were invited to attend an event organised by the Disability Action Alliance (DWP) earlier this month to discuss new projects and explore partnership and commercial funding opportunities. As previously reported, our Match Buddies Toolkit is ready to roll out and we are grateful to the DAA for their support in raising the project’s profile.

Match Buddies takes a partnership approach to matching disabled people with a ‘buddy’ who has a shared passion for sport to simply enjoy the game, the socialising and the atmosphere together, just like anyone else. The project has many benefits by connecting fans, raising disability awareness, breaking down barriers, empowering disabled and non- disabled people and educating and strengthening local communities. Match Buddies can act as a catalyst to long term education and employment opportunities by recruitment of volunteers and disabled people and it can encourage disabled people who do not already attend matches to do so. We recognise there is a need for this partnership approach and although the idea started with football and rugby there is an opportunity to include other sports and a wide range of disabled people.

We are pleased to be invited to visit clubs and review designs when they are planning stadium redevelopment and improvements. Experience shows that early involvement by an access consultant delivers an inclusive design without the need to go back and make costly changes later in the project. LPF is currently working on a number of schemes – from multi million pound stadium new builds and new stands to advising on colour schemes and signage and installing an Accessible WC.

Our Access Audit programme is delivered by our panel of NRAC accredited auditors and managed by Ruth Hopkins. We have now started auditing all the Rugby Football League Championship clubs and FA Wales Premiership grounds as well as confirming dates with a number of Premiership and Championship Football clubs, Rugby Union, cricket grounds and early discussions with Horse Racing.

The day to day requests for help, advice and mediation from clubs and individuals continues to steadily increase. We try to respond promptly but in some cases it is necessary for us to make further enquiries to ensure we have all the information to hand. On occasions we may need to wait for clubs to call a meeting with key personnel during their investigation but we will always do our best to keep you updated during the process.

The power of Social Media was very evident earlier this month. A disabled football spectator posted a photograph of his view of the match obscured by a television cameraman on Twitter. Within a few hours the photograph had been re tweeted  hundreds of times, it had been uploaded onto our Fans Comments pages on our web site and brought to our attention by several LPF members and interested parties. On this occasion, we are pleased to report the club carried out a full investigation and has now put safeguards in place to prevent disabled supporters’ views being blocked in the future. They shared our surprise how quickly and how far this tweet had spread.

Similarly, we re-tweeted a BBC story earlier this month where a taxi company in the north east had refused to take wheelchair user passengers. This was re-tweeted by one of our high profile followers and within a few minutes there was a huge reaction leading to an on- line petition with thousands of signatures. Follow LPF on twitter @lpftweets.

Thank you to everyone who sends us reports about their match day experiences – either by email, phone, Twitter or as a Fans Comment – we are always pleased to receive them. We will pass information onto the club concerned (anonymously if you prefer) and invite them to respond. We hope you recognise how important these comments are in helping clubs make improvements as well as celebrating when things are done well. Furthermore these comments help us when we speak to the Leagues and the Football Association about issues disabled supporters are facing.

Weeks of Action – we have now contacted all clubs and DSAs with information about our 2014 Weeks of Action from 15th to 30th March, we would like to know what clubs and DSAs are planning beforehand so that we can help publicise events via the e-newsletter and on our website. Please send your plans to via email or phone on 01244 893 584.