SW 2013/14

South West Disabled Fans’ Experience Forum 2013. 

The third forum took place at Swansea City Football Club on Thursday 17th October 2013. This forum was hosted by Ian James (SC Disability Officer); Nick Saunders (co-founder/co-chairman); Swansea City Football Club and Disabled Supporters Association. 

The idea for the forum came from Nick Saunders (Exeter City DSA) back in 2011 and with David Munn (Yeovil Town DSA) working together, they set-up the now SWDFEF. 

Invitations were open to disabled supporter associations; disability liaison officers; stadium managers; health& safety officers; disability ‘football in the community’ officers and anyone who deals with disability at their club. 

Attending this forum were 25 delegates from 3 Football League clubs; 1 Premier League club and Level Playing Field. Delegates that attended this year’s forum came from Exeter City; Plymouth Argyle; Swansea City and Yeovil Town. Apologies came from Bristol Rovers; Cardiff City; Cheltenham Town; Swindon Town; Torquay United and the Football League. 

The forum was opened and all delegates welcomed by Nick Saunders and then the forum was handed over to Ian James (Swansea City Disability Officer). 

Ian James gave a detailed presentation on his role as disability officer at Swansea City and explained a number of issues that the club were tackling. Ian informed the forum that he joined the supporters trust board (who own over 20% of the club) in order to try and address disability issues and became the clubs official disability officer and together with SSMC, Tony Avo, the Football club board of directors, things have moved along greatly. Ian then outlined some particular problems that were unforeseen in joining the Premier League and how problems have been resolved and how a dialogue is now maintained between all parties including the ticket office, the stewards, SSMC and the club. 

Ruth Hopkins (Access & Development Manager at Level Playing Field) gave a presentation on her role as an Access Auditor and talked about what she looks for in an access audit and the social model of disability within the context of the disabled sports spectator. 

Then the forum passed to Oona Smith who is the Chair of the Swansea City Disabled Supporters Association. Oona outlined her role and that of the DSA. Oona stated that as she was new to the role, forums such as the SWDFEF is an excellent ways of sharing best practice and was hoping to contact various clubs to obtain feedback shortly. Oona also stated that she was looking forward to attending the next forum with other members of the Swansea City DSA. 

After a short break Ian James then introduced Tony Avo (Safeguarding Manager). Tony outlined his role and responsibilities at Swansea City and their commitment to safeguarding the welfare of children and vulnerable adults who engage in Club organised activities and this include players, Staff and spectators and discussed his working relationship with Ian as Disability Officer. Tony also explained the next initiative that was being launched which was an information leaflet that would be sent to all disabled supporters (home and away) providing detailed information on getting to the stadium, services and facilities on offer, contact numbers and how to distinguish disabled stewards etc. Read more about Safeguarding children and vulnerable adults at: Link 

The forum then went onto General Discussion and the main topic was about the impact of the government’s new welfare changes, particularly classification of disability for ticketing purposes as the current system of Higher / Medium rates of Disability Living Allowance were being abolished and the possible affects this would pose disabled supporters and football clubs. 

An open invitation was given to clubs to hold the next forum but at this time, no club has offered to hold the next forum. It is hoped a club will come forward and hold the next forum in October, 2014. 

The forum was formally closed by Nick Saunders and himself and David Munn (co-founder/co-chairman) thanked everyone for their attendance and thanked everyone involved at Swansea City for their warm and friendly welcome and for hosting a fantastic forum at the Liberty Stadium and the use of their facilities and both also thanked Ruth Hopkins from Level Playing Field for her presentation and support given to the forum. 

Before everyone left there was an opportunity of a Stadium tour, this was kindly given by Matt Daniel (Operations Manager of the Liberty Stadium). Delegates visited the changing room; match day press area and pitch area of the Liberty Stadium. 

The forum was another great success and the feedback from attendees was again very positive. 

For reports of the other forums please visit: Link

Nick Saunders (ECDSA Chairman; ECFC DLO; LPF Trustee; SWDFEF co-founder/co-chairman)

Giving supporters with disabilities of Exeter City Football Club 'a voice to be heard'