Saturday the 19th October saw the country’s first ‘Autism-Friendly’ football match take place at the Racecourse.
The Wrexham v Woking match was designated to raise awareness of Autism, and run in partnership with Wrexham based charity, Autism Wishes.
The idea behind the Autism-friendly match occurred when Autism Wishes contacted the Wrexham FC Disabled Supporters Association to see if it would be possible to facilitate an Autism-friendly match. The Association currently has in excess of 100 members, and is constantly looking at ways and means of trying to improve the match day experience for all disabled supporters.
The charitable partner scheme is a Wrexham Supporters Trust initiative run in conjunction with Wrexham Football Club that seeks to help raise awareness and profile a number of local charities each year through a combination of planned arrangements that are intended to support partner charities with their fundraising events.
This year Autism Wishes is one of four charities that is supporting the Wrexham Supporters Trust.
A group of around 50 attended the Racecourse to watch the Reds play against Woking.
Jo Perera, who helped set up Autism Wishes said: “We’re trying to get everyday things achievable for people with Autism.
“It shows that football matches are accessible to everyone, nothing is impossible with the right things in place.”
The group had a section of the Mold Road Stand’s ‘Family Section’ set aside for them and they had the chance to pay a visit the ground a couple of days beforehand to familiarise themselves with their surroundings and purchase their tickets.
Speaking about the Autism-friendly match, Jo said: “Wrexham FC have always been behind us, it was a positive experience.
“A few of the children had been to football matches before, it won’t work for everyone, just as long as we have the basics in place.”
The match was the first of its kind in the country, and has already attracted interest from Exeter football club. It is hopedwith the success of the event, then more football clubs will host something similar.
Simon Johnson, a Wrexham season ticket holder and dad to Mollie, aged 10, who has Autism, explained why the scheme was proving so popular: “Like most families, we are always looking for fun activities to do together but having a child with autism means it isn’t always easy to do things that most people take for granted, like attending football matches.
“Mollie, for example, would not always be able to tolerate new surroundings, particularly somewhere as loud and busy as a football ground. We are also extremely conscious of disturbing other people if we were at events and so tend to avoid them. By giving us our own section of the ground where we will be seated with other families in the same boat we will feel much more comfortable and the pre-match visit will help many of the children who have issues adapting to new environments.
“I’ve seen and attended similar initiatives at cinemas across the country but I believe that this is the first time a football club has done this. I would like to offer my thanks to the DSA, Autism Wishes and everyone at Wrexham Football Club for making this possible. It will mean a great deal to lots of families who have never had this chance before.”