My Experience As A Disabled Football Fan ... A Year Later
It has been a year since I wrote my first football related blog post, which you can still read here. In this post, I discussed what it is like to be a disabled football fan, covering several issues, including the ticket buying process and wheelchair access at stadiums.
Since then, I have visited many more Championship stadiums, been to some Premier League clubs, and started volunteering for Derby County Disabled Supporters Club as a Digital and Communications Officer; helping to run their website and social media accounts.
I thought it would be interesting to look back at this original blog post, and compare my thoughts now and give you a little update on any changes I have seen.
With regards to the ticket buying process, in my original post I spoke about how disabled tickets are rarely available to buy online and that you are required to either visit the ticket office in person or phone (often a charged number) to be able to purchase your tickets. This means I always run the risk of not getting a ticket due to the process being twice as long as a few clicks on the website would.
Since then, there have been improvements with Derby’s ticketing system for disabled fans. Derby have made it possible for disabled fans to buy away tickets (as long as it is agreed with the other club). This has made buying away tickets so much easier for me this season and is a huge step forward in improving disabled access at football matches.
Unfortunately, that is the only real positive change I’ve seen over this past year. There still needs to be a big change when it comes to disabled access at football matches, and one thing I think should be done, is to make it obligatory for clubs to have to tell disabled fans what they can expect when going to the match. Let me explain.
By this I mean, if I am going to an away match, I would like to know before buying my ticket if I am going to be sat with home fans or find it difficult to see the pitch. Since I am paying the same price as any other 23 year old does, it would be nice to be told when my experience will be different due to lack of access - not buy my ticket, and then have to wait to find out on the day.
This obviously isn’t the massive change we need, in a perfect world I wouldn’t need to be warned, because disabled access wouldn’t be an issue and I’d always be sat with fellow Derby fans and be able to use amazing facilities. But with the current state of play, I think this is a little idea that might make away matches that little bit easier for disabled fans.
Additionally, one thing I found myself saying a lot in my ‘Following the Rams Away 2018/19’ blog post, is that disabled fans were seated on the lower tier of the away stand, whilst the rest of fans are on the upper and this hasn’t changed this season.
I’ve spoken to fellow disabled fans about this issue and it seems that if you ask a club why disabled fans are seated separately, the common answer is that it is for safety reasons. To that I ask why; a) disabled fans can’t be seated on the upper tier with the rest of their clubs fans or b) why can’t the rest of the fans be seated on the lower tier with disabled fans?
I understand that the lack of a disabled lift is usually due to the age of so many stadiums, which means wheelchair users can’t get up to the top tier, but why can’t the rest of the fans come to the lower tier? Usually its “just the way it is.”
Finally, the biggest problem for me personally, is the number of wheelchair spaces provided for away fans. A lot of clubs are still failing to provide the required number of wheelchair spaces (Luton, for example only have 4 spaces, and they are with the home support,) and I want to know when something will be done about this. Although there is a lot of room for improvement for accessibility at football matches, I still absolutely love going to watch the mighty Rams home and away and I will continue to write and share my experiences as a disabled fan online until changes start to happen.
Thanks for reading! Alex.