Following last night’s statement from Wrexham AFC, we also felt it important that the situation is clarified regarding the club’s disappointing decision to relieve the volunteers of Wrexham DSA of their platform duties, and also to correct some inaccuracies in their statement.
In the spirit of openness and transparency, we too have included emails sent between both parties to allow readers the opportunity to build their own opinion.
Before the game vs Ebbsfleet
Firstly some background to the initial request for a pitch presentation and the possibility of some tickets for guests. Wrexham DSA are a part of a wider group of DSA’s called Allies in Access, and as part of this group Wrexham DSA was recently recognised for a National Award at a Fans for Diversity ceremony in London. During discussion the other DSA’s suggested visiting Wrexham DSA on a match day, ideally the 12th October 2019 when their respective Premiership and Championship clubs would have no fixture due to the international break.
We thought it an opportunity to have our group award presented on the pitch. We had hoped that this would also be a positive story for the club to share in. Though we may be non-league on the pitch, in terms of the work done by Wrexham DSA and AFC in partnership, we are right up there with the biggest club’s in the country, we simply could not have launched the likes of Audio Descriptive Commentary, built viewing platform 1 or held the 1st Autism friendly football match in the UK for example without the club’s cooperation. So when Wrexham DSA are praised at a national level, it naturally puts Wrexham AFC in good light.
The refusal of complimentary tickets is a non-issue for us as a committee, it was a question asked on the off chance, and given we’d been to Molineux and The Bescot Stadium as guests previously we’d have liked to have repaid the favour if possible.
The sour point for us was the refusal of an on pitch presentation, and the original reason given to Wrexham DSA via email which was; “due to the fact it isn’t a Wrexham AFC club related award” and not the “Unfortunately, Wrexham AFC were further unable to facilitate this request due to the tunnel area being restricted from 2pm onwards on match day. This operation is standard practice at all of our home games” reasoning supplied in Wrexham AFC’s statement.
Rightly or wrongly this was taken very negatively by members of the Wrexham DSA committee who took it in the context of, ‘despite the hours we give to the club on a match day, we are not club related.’
With a feeling of frustration and being taken for granted some of the committee said that they would not be on duty for the next home game versus Ebbsfleet and the club were subsequently notified on Friday 27th September.
Now within the press release there is a blatant lie; “The DSA also informed our stadium manager and our DLO they were not prepared to supply the names of the supporters attending the platform”.
At absolutely no point was this threat made! And having painstakingly planned the platform rota for the past 3 years making many friends along the way, I take great umbrage to Wrexham AFC wrongly implying that I have used our platform users in such a manner. On supplying the platform list as usual to the stadium manager, I ended the message, “I hope this helps things run smoothly”, not exactly militant “Strike” action.
A fellow committee member decided he still wished to be on duty, meaning that there was still a Wrexham DSA presence on the car park, distribution of ADC commentary, and the viewing platform. The club were notified of his presence on Friday evening and again confirmed on the Saturday.
Following the release of Wrexham AFC’s statement, one suggestion made on social media by members of the Wrexham fan base was that this was us throwing our toys out of the pram for being denied a ‘photo opportunity’ on the pitch. It’s worth bearing in mind that we could have taken this to Villa Park, St. Andrew’s or Molineux for a photo opportunity, but we and our fellow Allies in Access wanted it at the Racecourse Stadium. This in our opinion was a missed opportunity by Wrexham AFC.
Following the Ebbsfleet Fixture
On Thursday evening at 17:21 we received the following email setting a tight deadline;
“In light of your recent strike action on Saturday 28th September.
Please could you clarify your position from here on to us.
Could you please advise us if you will you be attending the next Wrexham AFC league game on Tuesday 8th October to carry out the disabled supporters association match day voluntary duties? As we will need to be in contact with the Wrexham Supporters Association and Glyndwr to make them aware of the situation if you will not be manning the disabled blue badge spaces, to give them the opportunity to make other arrangements.
Along with club making alternative arrangements if you will not be supervising the platform, or contacting service users to arrange the platform rota. We would however assume like Saturday, that someone will be attending on Tuesday night to run the audio descriptive commentary service.
Could you please advise us of your thoughts regarding this matter no later than 12pm tomorrow (Friday). So, that the club have the necessary time to organise for Tuesday night’s game, if there is a need. Our main concern and priority is the fans that rely on these services being in place, so we don’t want any unnecessary disruption to our service users on a match day.”
The DSA committee discussed the email on the Thursday evening, with the outcome being that we all wished to continue and would be on duty as normal for the next home game. With our Co-chair Steve in London meeting his spinal consultant, I stated that I would respond to the email the following morning.
The following response was sent at 1pm the following day, 1 hour past the deadline set to Wrexham DSA by Wrexham AFC;
“I am planning the rota as normal for Tuesday, which the club will have in advance.
Darren will be doing the ADC as normal as he did Saturday.
We will again have a presence on the platform as we did Saturday.
We will also have a presence on the car park prior to kick off as normal.
Likewise, our main concern and priority is the fans that rely on these services being in place on a match day. At times, it’s only the dependency of our service users and the difference we make to people’s day/life that keeps us going, and I don’t doubt for a second that this is often the case in your voluntary role as DLO also.
I can’t stress enough that any decision by our committee is never taken lightly, and the decision for some of us to stand down from our duties was done so with very heavy hearts.
Darren’s personal choice/decision to continue by running the ADC and platform was met with blessing and praise from the committee, giving admiration and respect for his integrity and humility.
I fully understand the need of knowing our current position, in order to make sufficient other arrangements in good time. However, I am disappointed that no mention of trying to resolve the issue or make progressive steps such as a group meeting as I suggested last Friday has been made.
Just an enquiry as to will you/won’t you?
I hope I have answered everything required.”
So why was my reply was sent on behalf of Wrexham DSA an hour late and subsequently missed the 12 midday deadline? Like many club volunteers, I work full-time. I had planned to send the email prior to the 12pm deadline. Unfortunately due to professional commitments I was unable to full-fill this duty on time, instead sending at the first available opportunity, notifying my fellow committee members that it had been submitted 1 hour late.
Notification of being relieved of platform duties
“Thanks for your reply Andy.
Unfortunately as the DSA did not reply until after the 12pm deadline, which was required by us, Wrexham AFC had no alternative but to ensure the services were available for some of our most vulnerable of supporters.
As such, the DSA presence will not be required on the platform for Tuesday evening at Wrexham AFC and for the remainder of the season. Our disabled supporters rely on the provision of services and we have to ensure they continue to receive a high quality service without the potential for any possible disruption as it really makes a difference to their match day experience.
Wrexham AFC will continue to strive for excellence with regards to inclusion and diversity as anyone would expect as a minimum. This has been a difficult decision to take by Wrexham AFC but we must ensure the services for some of our most vulnerable supporters are never placed in jeopardy and taking these services in house is the most sensible solution at this time. Wrexham AFC will strive to improve on the services currently offered which I am sure you would welcome.
I would like to add our gratitude to Darren for facilitating the ADC on Saturday. The continuation of this service is a high priority for Wrexham AFC and if you can commit and guarantee to providing the service you would be welcomed to do so on behalf of the football club. Should you be unable to guarantee providing the service to our supporters who gain an enhanced match day service, Wrexham AFC will have no option other than to source alternative arrangements. Feedback from the supporters who use the ADC has been so positive, we know how much they value the service and will take all steps necessary to ensure its continuation.
With regards to any meeting, Wrexham AFC were unaware of any issue until the request one made by the DSA for tickets and pitch presentation for the St Mirren Colts game, unfortunately this was unable to be facilitated. Alternative arrangements were offered for the allies in access group to attend the ground on a non match day to have a pitch side presentation but we have not heard back regarding the offer which still stands. Should you wish to email a request with an agenda for items you wish to discuss at a meeting we would look to meet you at a convenient time and date in the near future.
Wrexham AFC would like to thank you for your past presence on the viewing platform and hope we can continue working together in providing services to some of our most vulnerable supporters in the future.”
Issued jointly by: Wrexham AFC Operations and Wrexham Supporters Trust Governing Body.
The above email from Wrexham AFC was received on the evening of Sunday 6th October relieving us of our platform duties.
Wrexham DSA recognise that our response to Wrexham AFC’s email was 1 hour past the deadline set by the club, and as a result contingency plans may have been needed to be made in that hour from a logistical point of view to ensure Tuesday’s fixture went ahead without affecting the fans who depend on the services we provide.
However, we see it unreasonable to have terminated our match day presence with immediate effect for the remainder of the season, without entering any further dialogue given that we have given so much valuable time and dedication for so many years, enhancing the name of Wrexham AFC amongst its footballing peers, and recognition at the highest level in the Houses of Parliament as “Exemplars of best practice”.
We have been criticised by some quarters for not keeping this in house. Up until the point of Sunday’s email all of the above mentioned had been kept in house for what for us was a resolvable issue.
Thanks to anyone who has had the patience to read this in full before drawing to their own conclusion.
Andy Pierce, Wrexham DSA co-chair.