My First England Match... Wembley Review.
For my 23rd birthday, my parents very kindly got me tickets to the England v Bulgaria European Qualifiers match at Wembley. Yesterday was the day I finally got to my first England match.
What a good match it was to go to; I witnessed a Harry Kane hat-trick, and Mason Mount’s international debut. The atmosphere when England scored was deafening, and great to experience.
I have been to Wembley a lot, both for football matches and concerts, but I realised I have never written about my experience at the national stadium.
There are 310 wheelchair spaces in the stadium and the view from my seat was great. I found myself on a platform at the top of the level one stand, meaning I was higher up than anyone sat in front of me, so no one was blocking my view. Although there are barriers in front of the disabled seating, it was low enough for even myself to be able to see clearly over them. The view was perfect, which is what you expect from such a grand, modern stadium.
Despite the constant building work going on round the stadium, there is plenty of accessible parking available, which you can book in advance on the website.
Although a trip to Wembley is always exciting, that doesn’t mean the stadium comes without faults.
Firstly, Wembley have a fairly new restricted bag policy. The website states that if ‘for any reason (medical) you require a bag that does not adhere to the bag policy, please contact us prior to the event day by applying for a Medical Exemption Certificate.’
To be able to get a Medical Exemption Certificate, I had to send proof of eligibility. This is a similar process to getting disabled tickets, so sending a copy of your Access Card or PIP, DLA etc letters suffice.
However, this did add stress to the trip, it took several days for them to confirm that my proof of eligibility was enough to grant me an exemption certificate for my medical equipment. It did mean that myself and my Dad were worrying that we may not be able to get into the stadium with my suction unit, if I didn’t get this exemption certificate in time.
Once at the stadium, did they ask to see my Medical Exemption Certificate? No, of course not. This was the same last time I went to Wembley, and it added extra stress to the trip for no reason.
If you’re going to have a restricted bag policy that requires disabled people to go through extra hassle to get an exemption, actually stick to your bag policy, otherwise what is the point?!
This is also quite shocking from a security perspective. The large, squarish bag that holds my suction unit could actually hold a devastating amount of explosives, and was not inspected at Wembley, or indeed at a gig at NEC Birmingham not long after the Manchester bombing.
To get up to the stadium itself, you can either use the lift at the main entrance or one of the ramps round the stadium that go up to the concourse.
There was a considerable queue for the one lift, as it only had space for two wheelchairs and companions. Personally, I would prefer to be able to use the lift, as wheeling through the crowds of people can be very daunting. You would think for such a big stadium there would be more than one lift, but I have never found another one and looking at the website there is only one. So you have to choose between battling the crowds or queueing for a small lift, what an exciting choice.
Once you’re at stadium level, the concourse is wide and step free, meaning you are able to wheel round the whole stadium to soak in the atmosphere.
Each set of turnstiles have a wheelchair-accessible entrance, however I did note the lack of steward at the entrance. I also noticed this the last time I went to Wembley, so it certainly wasn’t a one off.
This means that we had to bang on the door to get someone to open it, whilst that works fine for me as I have my dad with me at all times, I did think it could cause problems for someone who is unable to bang on the door, what are you meant to do?
Fellow disabled football fan, Morgan Parry was also at the match. Morgan is a Bolton Wanderers fan and has been following them home and away for 15 years. He has been supporting the work of Level Playing Field and the Centre for Access to Football in Europe (CAFE) to improve the experience of fans with disabilities who want to attend live football and other sporting events.
I asked Morgan for his thoughts on disabled access at Wembley, his main points were;
1. Ticketing– why is it not possible to book disabled tickets online? Additionally, are there options to allow my younger brother to sit with us in the disabled seating (he is not disabled).
2. Changing Places Toilets– it is great that they have a good Changing Places Toilet, however there needs to be more. Given the size of the stadium there should be maybe 3/4 Changing Places, so that fans don’t need to travel too far from their seat to go to use the facilities.
3. Leaving the stadium, it could be a good idea to create a separate route for people with mobility problems / wheelchairs to reach the rail/tube stations. It can be daunting when people get in the crushes with bags/flags hitting you.
Many thanks to Morgan for contributing to my Wembley Review, you can follow him on twitter to keep up with his adventures following his beloved Wanderers home and away. Good luck for this season Morgan.
I really enjoyed my trip to Wembley yesterday and would love to go and watch England again one day.
Thanks for reading,