South West Disabled Fans’ Experience Forum.
The first ever forum took place at Exeter City Football Club on Thursday 10th November 2011 and was sponsored by Nick Saunders, David Munn and Exeter City Football Club.
The idea of holding these forums came from Nick Saunders, Chairman of the Exeter City Disabled Supporters Association and to help Nick, he asked David Munn from Yeovil Town DSA to work with him on the idea.
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 in the southwest region.
Attending this forum were 24 delegates from 6 southwest football league clubs and a representative from Level Playing Field. Delegates came from Bristol City, Cardiff City, Exeter City, Plymouth Argyle, Torquay United and Yeovil Town.
Apologies came from Bristol Rovers, Cheltenham Town and Swindon Town.
The forum started with all delegates being welcomed by David Munn and then self introductions.
There was an overview presentation by Nick Saunders giving details on the objectives, what could be gained and primary results of these forums.
Objectives of the forum: To provide a medium whereby everyone can exchange views, policies and practices concerning their own club’s and associations.
What could be gained: It is hoped that these forums will assist all attending in their efforts to improve their own club’s disabled facilities and standard of customer service given to disabled supporters.
Primary results: Firstly - Would improve the current disabled supporter’s experience. Secondly - Would encourage more disabled people to attend matches.
It was accepted that any attempts by these forums to change regulations,
policies would have to be submitted through the appropriate channels.
There was a presentation from Jackie Newing from Level Playing Field, (which is the working name for The National Association of Disabled Supporters) about promoting good access for all fans and their latest project ‘Working Together’. Clubs and disabled fans working together and to support clubs and disabled fans where no DSA currently exists to form a pan disability, user led DSA. This will help to improve the relationship, awareness and cooperation between disabled fans, clubs and non-disabled fans.
The forum then want onto a presentation from Nick Saunders - ECDSA Chairman, on what a DSA could do for a football club, by ways of helping to improve disabled facilities and the invaluable advice that can be given. This showcased what ECDSA is all about and showed greatly what can be done.
There were views from representatives from Exeter City. First up was Mike Cooper from the club reception on customer service and other disability issues. Up next was Clive Pring on views from a Stadium manager. Then came Jim Eastment on views on Health & Safety and finally from Scott Walker on views from Disability football in the community.
The forum went onto general discussions, date of next forum (to be held at Yeovil Town on 19th April 2012) and meeting closed.
The forum was a great success and the feedback from attendees were very positive and the outlook for future forums is very promising and in the end will benefit disabled fans attending matches at their clubs and their match day experience. This can only be done by everyone working together; any rivalry should not stand in the way. Attendees could see for themselves that clubs can work together because of the way Nick and David have been working together with great effect on this forum.
On a personal note I would like to thank David Munn for his great help and support of myself in getting these forums started, Jackie Newing from Level Playing Field and to all the attendees who came along, plus a big thank you to everyone at Exeter City Football Club for their hospitality and the use of the great facilities the club has on offer.
Nick, ECDSA Chairman.