DSA

The 20 Tour

After much thought I have decided to change the nature of this tour.  Instead of traipsing around all 92 grounds in one season I will now focus purely on the grounds of the Premier League clubs.  This will decrease the pressure on me and allow me to spend more time at each ground.  I will not try to watch a match at all the grounds, but I do want to bask in the architecture of these differing stadiums and collect memorabilia to auction at the end of my tour.

The charity that I have chosen to benefit from my expedition is Level Playing Field – the working name of National Association of Disabled Supporters. Instead of spending time trying to explain the nature of this registered charity I will share their guiding principles that can be found on their excellent website at www.levelplayingfield.org.uk

Guiding Principles

Level Playing Field (LPF) believe that being a disabled person is a social issue and that an individual only becomes disabled because of the social, attitudinal and environmental barriers that the individual faces (this is known as the social model of disability).

Our efforts are focussed on removing these barriers in all sports. LPF and its members will know they have succeeded when all fans can enjoy an equal experience at live sports events:

  • all stadia and sports venues are fully accessible and inclusive;
  • all customer and/or fan services are equal and inclusive;
  • disabled people are seen as customers with a commercial value


We are guided by the following principles:

  • Anti-discrimination – so that disabled people do not face discrimination arising from poor or misinformed practice.
  • Equality of opportunity or making things fairer – for disabled people in every aspect of their contact with sports clubs and venues.
  • Increasing the independence and choices that disabled people have.
  • Individual needs / Diversity – recognising that a disabled person is an individual who, like all others, has his or her own needs, abilities, human rights and responsibilities.
  • Integration/inclusion – such that services are made accessible to disabled people and offer choice.
  • Involvement in decision-making – so that disabled people, and/or their advocates, are consulted before decisions which affect them are made.
  • The social model of disability explains that it is social and physical ‘barriers’ that cause ‘disability’ not impairments.

LPF is working to remove the barriers that currently exclude disabled people. These barriers can be:

  • prejudice and stereotypes
  • the way things are organised and run
  • little or no access to information, buildings and transport

To download a PDF of the Guiding Principles with footnotes please click here.

 To download a PDF copy of the LPF Governing Constitution click here.

I think you now get an idea of why I have chosen to support this charity. As a disabled person, I know that attending a football match every weekend and having involvement with like-minded fans through a DSA (Disabled Supporter’s Association) can make a big difference to people’s lives.  I want the money raised through this project to make a real difference by giving others the opportunity to attend matches and feel the same sense of inclusion that I feel every time I visit the Racecourse.

I recently wrote an article for the April edition of When Saturday Comes that touched upon the inadequate disabled facilities at Premier League football grounds.  If this tour can help to make clubs think about their responsibilities to supporters then it will have been a success.

There is much planning to be done. Fortunately, I recently discovered Roadrunner Motorhomes which provides fully accessible accommodation on wheels.  It boasts a ceiling track hoist, profiling bed, toilet and wet room, which is all I need to make this epic adventure a reality.  I have booked the motorhome for the first week in October.  This will be ideal for visiting clubs based on the south coast and maybe a few more once I have worked out which are the best campsites to stay in.

For more information see: www.roadrunnermotorhomes.webs.com

I also need to set up an online sponsorship page for all you kind people to support me on my tour of England and Wales.  In addition I will also be booking the few hotels with the necessary equipment needed to transfer me from wheelchair to bed.  This will be needed in order to visit the London clubs and those based in south Wales and the North East.

This venture will cost me a pretty penny at a time that disabled people are disproportionately feeling the full force of austerity measures. Subsequently, any individual or company that would like to help out with petrol costs, hotel fees and food bills then please do get in touch.

So, this is my latest escapade. There is much to organise and at times it is overwhelming, but if the money I raise helps just one disabled person attend football more regularly – subsequently increasing their sense of- self-worth – then it will have been a worthwhile venture.

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Pledges for 2017

These are tough times in which we live and I see no sign that things are going to get any easier soon. This reminds me of a letter I received from Ossie Ardiles in 1992 after he was appointed as manager of West Bromwich Albion. He was responding to a letter I had written to congratulate him on his appointment – that’s the sort of wild and crazy teenager I was, and I wonder why I am still single.  Anyway, there’s a line in his response that I think is relevant to all of us that are struggling to cope in these repressive, right-wing times.

The wise Argentinean speaks of his new club’s misfortunes over the years and notes that there is a lot of hard work to be done but he concludes with the following words that can give us all hope and determination we need for future fights for justice:

…”from misfortune can come opportunity”

With this in mind, I am looking forward to the next 12 months with an array of opportunities waiting for me. I want to make sure that I keep up the momentum I have built as a creative force and to do this I think it would be a good idea to write down my aims for 2017 so that I can refer back to them throughout the year to check that I am still on track to achieve all that I want to.

 

Pledges for 2017:

To write a Tanka each day (this might be a bit ambitious but I want to write as many as possible to build a comprehensive picture of life with a disability in 21st century Britain).

Continue writing my Memory Match feature for the Wrexham AFC matchday programme.

Continue fighting for independent living for ALL disabled people

Submit art to Disability Arts Cymru exhibitions

Continue my work with Wrexham AFC DSA

Continue my work with Outside In at Glyndwr University

Continue my work with CSSIW

Continue supporting Change.org and 38 Degrees by signing their petitions, sharing on social media and writing to my MP.

Visit my Gran and Granddad’s grave once a month.

Look into the possibility of arranging my first holiday since 2000.

Random acts of kindness – to everyone bar Tory pigs.

I think this is enough for now, but if I think of more that I would like to achieve in 2017 I will add these aims above.  Part of me does not like fragmenting my life into 12 month periods and thereby subscribing to the Western capitalist calendar, but I have social workers to impress by proving that I am in need of a healthy care package to keep me active in the local community.

Happy New Year everyone.

In Pursuit of Perfection…

On Thursday morning I was interviewed by Channel 4 News who were putting together a report on the excellent wheelchair platform at the Racecourse – the world’s oldest international football stadium.

This was my TV debut and I didn’t prepare. I never do for speeches at meetings and just tend to go with the flow. However, this can be a dangerous game as I always come away wishing I had said and emphasised a particular point to a greater degree. This is exactly what happened on Thursday and now I am kicking myself for not saying everything I wanted.

 A fellow member of the Disabled Supporters Association was present and told me not to worry as everything I said was spot on. My PA also added encouraging words, but I am my own worst critic. It is not easy when you are put on the spot to think of an amazing, free-flowing answer to a question, but when I was asked why the majority of Premier League clubs do not cater for disabled fans I missed a golden opportunity to talk about Capitalist greed.

 What I should have said was that Premier League clubs put profit before the needs of their community. Wrexham is a community run club where I am just as important as any other supporter, whereas football’s elite are too concerned about maximising profit and pandering to the image-conscious media. I could have spoke for ages about this and it would have made great footage, but instead I just said that I didn’t understand why the Premier League clubs haven’t invested in facilities to accommodate all fans.

 Maybe I am worrying about nothing? I hope Channel 4 have enough footage of me talking semi-sense. If not, I would be happy to contribute more via telephone as the last thing I want to do is miss the opportunity to promote our club and our facilities in a positive light. You can judge for yourself whether or not I made a hash of things on December 6th or 7th. I will let you know when I get confirmation of the date.

 On a personal level, I am also obsessing over my posture in my wheelchair. It is embarrassing that my powered chair is obviously not suitable for my ever-changing body. My long legs tend to flop to the sides and my hips roll forward leaving me in a slumped seating position. On top of this, I do not have enough trunk support and constantly lean towards my left side. And I wonder why I do not have any luck with the ladies.

 I am putting as much pressure as I can on the wheelchair posture department at the Artificial Limb and Appliance Centre, but it looks like I will have to wait until after Christmas for an appointment. I have been on the waiting list for about 20 weeks now. I did hope I could get this sorted before my 40th birthday in February, but it looks like I will have to be a little more patient.

 It is hard work being a disabled perfectionist…

My Racecourse – Stuart Roberts

Nathan Lee Davies is a key member of the Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association, who is right behind our My Racecourse campaign. Despite a debilitating condition he does all he can to contribute to Wrexham AFC’s success. He has agreed to pen for us a series of short stories over the summer detailing what the Racecourse means to fans and former players alike. This week Nathan talks to WST board member Stuart Roberts about the day his love for Wrexham AFC and the Racecourse was cemented:

28-12-87

Wrexham v Hereford United

League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 0-0

Wrexham: Morris, Williams, Cunnington, Hinnigan, Cooke, Bowden, Buxton, Hunter, Kearns, Russell, Emson (Preece)

Hereford United: Rose, Jones, Devine, Powell, Pejic, Spooner, Rodgerson, Bowyer, Stevens, Stant, Dalziel

Attendance: 2,443

 Being a child in a forces family, attending the Racecourse regularly wasn’t an option as we were living outside of the area. I got to see a few of the bigger matches, but I grew up as an armchair Liverpool fan as they were the dominant team of the seventies.   At school in the Midlands, I almost succumbed to the pressure from my classmates to join them as Molineux regulars, but after watching Wrexham lose there in the FA Cup Fifth Round in 1981, I found that my hometown team was more important than the men in old gold could ever be.

My first game without a guardian was at Christmas time in 1987. I got a lift with my cousin and his father-in-law, and absolutely loved my first experience of the quirky architecture of the old Mold Road Stand. People were spilling out of the Centre Spot and the Turf full of festive cheer and that is where the excitement started for me.  Then it was around the corner to the Kop….

WOW.

Even though the Kop was still fairly subdued, it gave me such a buzz to push my frame through those cold, iron turnstiles. Those of you reading this now will know that once you have felt the enigmatic mystique of the Racecourse combined with the intoxicating stench of fried onions and tobacco, not to mention the rush of pre-match adrenaline pumping around your body, there really is no going back.  The emotion of the event won me over in less than five minutes. We were only playing Hereford United in front of a couple of thousand beleaguered souls, but there was no where else I’d rather be showing off my new Christmas clobber.

Those feelings were probably enough to make sure I made a return to the Racecourse but it was pretty much guaranteed after making my way to the back of the Kop. I remember walking up the steps on the right hand side with people laughing and joking and obviously enjoying the experience as much as I was.  There were kids who were also starting their education in football and I don’t doubt that they soon learnt what supporting your local team meant and why they are probably taking their kids or grandchildren on a Saturday now, as I do with my daughter who shows as much passion for our great club as any proud dad could ask for.

Once at the back of the Kop I came across THAT guy who starts the songs. Everyone knew him and everyone wanted to stand by him.  He was and still is, relentless.  If a few minutes passed without a song, then you just knew a terrace anthem would soon be booming out. I think his name is Jacko…

“Everywhere we go
People want to know
Who’re the boys in red and white”…

As for the game in question, I had chosen to attend the only 0-0 draw of the whole season – home or away. This was just my luck. The day be0fore this game we had drawn 1-1 at Stockport County and now we struggled to find a way past a Hereford side that sat deep with ten men behind the ball at all times. I don’t remember any real scoring chances and this was a very depressing way to say goodbye to 1987. Dixie McNeil said afterwards that “1988 has to be an improvement on 1987!”

The fact that I wanted to come back for more shows that there is more to being part of a community of football fans than the “entertainment” we often have to endure.

***

Over the summer months, Nathan Lee Davies hopes to compile a series of articles about our treasured Racecourse memories. We hope that this will promote the My Racecourse brand by showing how much this venue means to so many people and illustrate that it can be used by all of the community to create more memories in the future.

My Racecourse

Taken from the Wrexham AFC official website

Nathan Davies is a key member of the Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association, who is right behind our My Racecourse campaign. Despite a debilitating condition he does all he can to contribute to Wrexham AFC’s success.

He has agreed to pen for us a series of short stories over the summer detailing what the Racecourse means to fans and former players alike.

Here is the first and it the shares Nathan’s moving story of his My Racecourse memory against Barnet from nearly 25 years ago:

26/09/92

Wrexham v Barnet

Division Three

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-3

Wrexham: Hughes, Jones, Pejic, Phillips, Humes, Sertori, Bennett, Owen, Connolly, Thomas, Paskin (Taylor)

Goalscorers: Bennett 35, Thomas 78

Barnet: Phillips, Howell, Cooper, Bodley, Barnett, Horton, Payne, Carter, Bull, Lowe (Stein), Showler (Naylor)

Goalscorers: Bull 21, 47, Carter 33

Attendance: 3,078

School days are supposed to be the best days of your life, but I can assure you that in my case nothing could be further from the truth. Academically there was no problem, but I was the victim of merciless bullies who I would do anything to avoid due to their repressive catcalls and punishing fists.

The problem was that I wasn’t like everyone else and in the black and white world of childhood being different is impossibly isolating.

I walked with a involuntary drunken stagger, which caused much amusement to my immature class mates. I was later to find out that my lack of co-ordination was caused by a progressive, genetic disease of the nervous system known as Friedreich’s Ataxia, but at the time clueless doctors just labelled me as lazy and clumsy. I had few friends and felt that no one understood me.

As you can imagine, I lived for the weekends and had started going to the Racecourse in the late eighties. One particular Saturday, my friends could not make it to the Cae Ras, so I had to decide whether to miss out on an afternoon’s entertainment – which had also been previewed on Saint and Greavsie – or go it alone…

It was ridiculously early. I purchased a copy of the matchday programme and spent the last few pounds of my pocket money to gain access to the near-deserted Kop. I had my choice of crush barriers to stand behind and after choosing a position on the upper left of this much loved terrace, I sat on the cold concrete steps to read about our 2-0 victory over Shrewsbury Town a couple of weeks previously.

This welcome three points against the Shrews had come against the formbook, which did little to suggest that season 1992/93 would be anything else other than our usual scrap amongst the dead men. Less than a month into the season we’d already suffered heavy-defeats on the road as Bury, York City and Gillingham had all scored four goals past us in three successive away defeats. How on earth would we cope against a second-placed Barnet side?

As the Kop slowly filled I realised that I was uncharacteristically relaxed and comfortable with those around me. I was not nervous or worried about being judged and took comfort from the fact that we were all there with the same aim in mind – three points for Wrexham. One bloke asked me the time, an old chap read the team line-ups from my programme and his mate shared his bar of Bourneville with me. Such interaction and unity with other human beings made a refreshing change from the assassination of my uniqueness by playground bullies.

I could be myself at the Racecourse…

I don’t remember too much about the game other than the novelty of Barnet boss Barry Fry running down the touchline in celebration of his side’s first half goals, Gary Bennett’s first league goal for the club, a disappointing attendance and the sliver of hope provided by Mickey Thomas when he reduced the deficit to 3-2 on 78 minutes.

We may have lost the game and left the ground full of frustration, but it didn’t matter to me, as I had enjoyed the afternoon of inclusion with my fellow Wrexham fans. This was my first real memory of acceptance by a group of supporters who have since become my extended family.

***
Inclusion and acceptance is what the Racecourse means to me. Over the summer months, I hope to compile a series of articles about our treasured Racecourse memories. We hope that this will promote the My Racecourse brand by showing how much this venue means to so many people and illustrate that it can be used by all of the community to create more memories in the future.

A season to remember…

Whatever happens in the final few games of the season, Wrexham fans can look back on a successful 2015/16 campaign with a well-earned sense of pride and achievement.

In January, our fan-owned club posted an operating profit for the first time in 15 years and last month Supporters Trust members voted overwhelmingly in favour of agreeing a 99-year lease with stadium owner Glyndwr University. Such progress shows the potential and ambition of our community club – a club that is open to everyone as shown through the remarkable work of the Disabled Supporters Association.

This will probably sound strange to most people, but one of my most cherished memories of 2015/16 came when we lost 1-3 against Woking at the Racecourse. It was a cold, dark and dismal January afternoon that I would have usually spent at home watching Final Score, but due to the fact that the DSA had worked tirelessly to open and maintain the swanky new viewing platform I was able to watch the match without getting drenched and with an excellent view of proceedings.

Dominic Vose scored a sublime free-kick, I got to meet the First Minister Carwyn Jones and I was also able to be a part of the crowd – it may have been a disappointed and disgruntled crowd, but at least I was part of it and not having to endure the waffling of Mark Clemmit.

The viewing platform has been a major success story for the club as a whole. It has drawn positive attention and admiration from the football world and beyond with visits from Lord Faulkner and Carwyn Jones, articles in the national press, plus a feature on the BBC national news. This new facility has also encouraged a push for clubs at the top of the game to follow the example we’ve set and has helped inspire the Accessible Grounds Bill that is currently going through the House of Commons.

The work that the Disabled Supporters Association has done is clearly not just benefiting Wrexham fans but disabled fans throughout the game. We can all be proud of this as all the work of the DSA relies on the generosity of sponsors, volunteers and fellow fans.

We do not want to rest on our laurels though. There is still much more work that needs to be done to make football matches accessible for all. I encourage everyone to get involved in this as there are many projects being run by the DSA and WST to help ensure our whole community can enjoy being part of our forward thinking community. We need help and support to establish a hearing loop at the ground, are currently working to become Dementia Friendly and recently held a Football v Homophobia day at the Racecourse.

In addition to all this we also need to keep pushing ahead with plans to build more viewing platforms. At the moment, we only have space to accommodate ten spectators in wheelchairs per match, but demand is far greater than this meaning that we have to operate a rota system. Therefore, supporters in wheelchairs cannot access the platform on a regular basis even though they want to support the club they love at every home game without having to put up with a poor pitch-level view and the risk of getting soaked. We also need to consider the needs of opposition supporters as everyone should be accommodated for at our stadium.

The DSA is currently approaching architects to design and price a second viewing platform to be built at the Racecourse. We have already shown other clubs the way forward with our wonderful facilities, but need to continue this good work to open our doors to everyone. After all, there is only so much of Mark Clemmit a man can stomach…