DSA

Memory Match – 12-10-35

It has been a while since I last wrote a Memory Match column. I spent 2015-2018 writing these articles for the Wrexham AFC matchday programme when we were proud to be a community club.

Unfortunately, the club’s treatment of disabled supporters is nothing short of a disgrace, while the treatment of the proactive Disabled Supporters Association leaves a lot to be desired. I am therefore withdrawing my support of the club until ALL disabled supporters are given adequate and inclusive facilities from which to enjoy the football served up at the Racecourse.

Instead I will go to watch 90 minutes of action, wherever I feel I am welcomed. It goes without saying that I will always have one ear on the Wrexham result as it is not the actual club that I have fallen out with. It is merely the way the club is being run that I have an issue with. I will continue to attend matches when it is my turn on the platform rota and away matches, but I am not wasting any more time at the bottom of the stand with an abysmal view of the action while exposed to the elements. It is a disgrace that disabled supporters are being treated in such a way at the start of the 21st century.

I still want to continue with these Memory Match articles as they proved popular. I also enjoy writing them and remembering a time when it was enjoyable to visit the Racecourse and watch a decent standard of football.

12-10-35

Wrexham v Tranmere Rovers

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-0

Wrexham: McMahon, Jones, Hamilton, Lawrence, McMahon, Richards, Mustard, Gardiner, McCartney, Fryer, Gunson

Goalscorers: McCartney (3), Fryer

Tranmere Rovers: Gray, Platt, Fairhurst, Curtis, Newton, Hopkinson, Eden, Macdonald, Bell, Woodward, Urmson

Attendance: 9,497

Following the previous season’s form, many Wrexham fans would have thought that the only way was up. They should have thought again…

Three wins on the bounce at the start of the season, had inspired confidence and performances were not too bad – if a little inconsistent – until the festive period. From Christmas until March, Wrexham failed to win a single game. In fact, they only recorded four more victories during the rest of the season.

Our unpredictable form was beginning to become apparent, when we welcomed Tranmere Rovers to the Racecourse in October. Since the explosive start that we had made to the season, there had been five defeats and two victories in the run up to this game. A week earlier, Gateshead beat us 2-0 at Redheugh Park, thanks to a double from Jack Allen.

Expectations must have been low, going in to this encounter with our cross-border rivals – not only due to our erratic form, but because Rovers were unbeaten in their opening nine games. During this period, they had notched 17 goals in comparison to our modest tally of seven.

Playing with a dazzling sun in their faces, Wrexham quickly got off the mark. Inside right Archie Gardiner, was a constant attacking threat and his decisive through ball left Jack Mustard with an open goal, but he somehow shot over the bar. It was an impressive start by the hosts, and Tranmere goalkeeper Bert Gray made some fine saves before Jack Fryer put the Town in front after 26 minutes.

Tranmere briefly rallied before the break, but Billy Eden’s shot went narrowly wide of the target. The away side still posed a threat, but within only two minutes of the restart Wrexham went further ahead – Charlie McCartney ran in to volley Gordon Gunson’s cross in to the net.

With a two-goal cushion the Blues dared to sit back on their lead, but within seconds Rovers ran clean through to score – only for the effort to be disallowed for an apparent infringement. Visiting players appealed strenuously against this decision, and were obviously determined to get back in the game. Pat McMahon’s goal led a charmed existence, with only the cross-bar saving him on one occasion.

A breakaway on the left led to McCartney making the issue safe, with a spectacular left-foot drive. The Stamford born centre-forward completed his hat-trick near the end of the game, following clever work by Gunson.

***

It is sometimes confusing when reading match reports from the Leader and North Wales Guardian, as they often contain conflicting accounts. According to ‘XYZ’ in the Leader, Tranmere had two goals disallowed, but only one was mentioned in the North Wales Guardian. XYZ reckoned that “twice the ball was placed in the Wrexham net, but the referee declined to award a goal. In the first case Bell… seemed to be definitely offside. In the second instance, I was not so sure where Alfred Jones was at the all-important moment. The referee Mr Isaac Caswell, however, was adamant and he brushed aside the Tranmere players who appealed for a goal, and steadfastly declined to allow it”

***

Wrexham ended the 1935/36 season in an uninspiring 18th position and our cup form was equally disappointing. Barrow dismissed us in the first round of the FA Cup after beating us 4-1 at Holker Street, while we received byes in the Welsh Cup up to the Sixth Round stage where we lost to Rhyl (2-1) at Belle Vue after a replay.

The Third Division North Cup saw us draw 2-2 at the Racecourse against Chester, who punished us in the replay by coasting to a 4-0 victory.

Kick in the Teeth…

The following statement has been published on the Wrexham Supporters Trust website and as you can imagine I am far from happy for a number of reasons.

Basically everything that I wrote in my previous blog, entitled Making a Stand , still holds true as nothing that we requested in our original resolution has been fulfilled with the building of a hugely unpopular second platform that is light years away from the inclusive nature of disabled facilities recommended by Level Playing Field and similar organisations.

I would also question why the authors of the original resolution, or the DSA itself, were not regularly consulted as the WST undertook their binding duty to fulfil the wishes of club owners. Yet again I feel that the disabled fan base have been let down and fobbed off by a self-interested committee who have little interest in providing equal access for all.

A new acquaintance of mine has summed up the dire situation at the Racecourse perfectly with the following quote:

I have been a Wrexham supporter for 40 years. There have been high points, low points but consistently throughout that 40 years I have felt a sense of belonging. An albeit small part of a common bond that cements me not only to Wrexham Football Club, but my town. I have no doubt that every Wrexham fan feels exactly the same way. That feeling every match day when we get together with our friends and enjoy that unity in supporting the club we ALL love.

Now imagine for a moment that the people who we have entrusted to oversee our joint investment in OUR club feel that not every fan should enjoy that feeling of being included within the Wrexham AFC family. Imagine if you will, that on matchday you are told that you cannot be amongst your friends, that you cannot feel part of that ground swell of anticipation as the team press forward, imagine being told for instance that you cannot feel part of that, that you have to forsake that because you have a disability!

Would any fan without a disability feel happy feeling that in some way that they were being segregated? I guess not, imagine turning up on matchday with your mates and being singled out as not being included. Imagine that this was said to you by a supporters trust whose very purpose was to promote an inclusive community club. Just imagine that, a community fan owned football club who cannot grasp who their community is. An “inclusive” football club who fail to include. Not really the dream that the WST sold us, is it?

Every trust member, every Wrexham AFC fan needs to be aware of what is going on, and every WST board member needs to be aware of their responsibilities. This is not a jolly for them, they have to be held accountable for every decision they make and we all have to keep making them aware of that.

***

The following statement has been published on the Wrexham Supporters Trust website:

Following a meeting with representatives of Wrexham Supporters Trust, Wrexham Association Football Club board, Wrexham AFC Disability Liaison Officer and Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association on Wednesday evening we can inform members work on construction of the new viewing platform will begin in early September.

The new viewing platform will be available for use by both home and away supporters as the location is suitable for either set of supporters to feel a part of the atmosphere with their fellow fans. The platform will be constructed on the land between the Tech End and BKoncepts stand in the stadium. Due to its placement giving a front on view of the pitch, the viewing platform will be suitable for use by supporters with neck and spinal injuries as recommended by Level Playing Field ( https://www.levelplayingfield.org.uk). Representatives of WST and Wrexham Association Football Club have been in regular dialogue with Level Playing Field and they have offered their support for the platform location.

The construction project will also include a refurbishment of the existing toilet blocks in that area to ensure they will be suitable to be used by all supporters accessing the platform. Supporters catering needs will mirror those currently used at Platform 1 in the Hays Travel Stand.

Wrexham Supporters Trust and Wrexham Football Club are committed to improving facilities for all supporters and are currently working on numerous projects to improve the match day experience. We will continue to keep members updated of the progress and would like to take this opportunity to thank our members for their patience in the building of the platform. We are sure every member and supporter of Wrexham AFC is looking forward to seeing the platform in use.

Making a Stand

Twelve months ago, Ian Parry and myself – both life-long supporters of Wrexham AFC – wrote the following resolution to be put to the Wrexham Supporters Trust AGM:

It has come to our attention that Wrexham AFC, whether through a lack of finance, vision or compassion, have let the proposed building of further wheelchair viewing platforms become an infuriatingly long drawn out and laborious, unfinished, process.

Since the opening of the inaugural platform  in 2015 by Lord Faulkner of Worcester, Wrexham AFC has had an abundance of positive nationwide publicity regarding this new facility for disabled fans. However, instead of striding forward and consolidating this with additional facilities, the club has rested on its laurels and appears content to sit back and accept the plaudits for achieving the implementation of a single solitary wheelchair viewing platform.

We believe that rather than this be the minimum requirement it should have indeed been a catalyst for further development and an opportunity to show many other clubs how to accommodate and welcome disabled supporters.

The official capacity of My Racecourse is quoted as 10,500 and according to the recently published “Green Guide” it states that “there should be 100 wheelchair spaces in a venue of 10,000 or more seats” At the moment My Racecourse has 6 designated wheelchair spaces on the wheelchair viewing platform, whilst the other “designated” wheelchair spaces are in fact seats designed for able bodied supporters where wheelchair users are expected to comfortably position themselves; more often with a carer squeezing in alongside.

Many disabled Wrexham fans attend matches in all weather conditions and deserve at least the basic right of shelter. Additional and improved disabled viewing facilities would show that the club does indeed care, recognises and appreciates their dedicated support.

We note that the club originally applied for funding for 3 platforms at £18,000 each in 2014/15.

Our Resolution is this:-

That WST agree:

  1. To have designated wheelchair and carer bays at the front of the Hays Travel stand.
  2. That the club take action as soon as possible on further platforms as soon as funding is in place, and the plans have been passed by Wrexham Council and by the Safety Officer.
  3. That these new facilities are not tied in to, or dependent upon, any other stadium redevelopments.
  4. That the club meets minimum standards of accessibility at the earliest possible opportunity.

 

It is time for the 2019 AGM, which takes place on 27th June. You would have expected much progress to have been made to enable wheelchair spectators such as myself and Ian, to enjoy an afternoon at the Racecourse with fellow fans. Unfortunately, next to no progress has been made and we are still watching 80% of games at pitch-level at the front of the stand. This section does not provide adequate cover, so we are often at the mercy of the elements. This pitch-side area has not even been specifically designated as we called for last year.

I can’t speak for Ian, but I have had enough of being treated like a second-class citizen. It is no fun watching a poor standard of football from pitch-level, with the threat of getting soaked from threatening rain clouds that seem to gather all too frequently.

Every so often, we may be lucky enough to get a space on the platform. This is rightly run on a rota basis, to ensure that everyone gets a chance to use this excellent facility. The platform gives wheelchair users an excellent overview of the action, while surrounded by their fellow supporters. It is this inclusion, that makes going to games enjoyable – even if it is a goalless encounter with Borehamwood.

The football club have proposed the building of a second platform, but it should be noted that many DSA members are not particularly enthused with the solution that the club have put forward. This is due to the fact that the intended platform will be situated in no-man’s land, between vocal home and away fans. This is clearly not the safest place to spend 90 minutes, neither is it keeping in the inclusive nature of the first platform. DSA members should not have to watch the game from a segregated space. The DSA had originally proposed the removal of a couple of rows of seats in a specific part of the ground, but such proposals – there were two of them – were scrapped as it seems potential profit from maximum capacity, is more important than providing equal access to all. This is very disappointing from a former community club.

A focus-group was set up to consider the building of a second platform. This was made up of representatives of the club board, DSA committee members and the DLO. The last meeting of this focus-group was nine months ago, which shows how highly it is being prioritised by those hell-bent on a return to the Football League – never mind the cost.

As a result, I will not be renewing my season ticket and will only be going to games at the Racecourse when it is my turn on the rota for the platform. Instead, I will be watching football matches at various different grounds, with one ear on the Wrexham score. I will always love and support the club, but I cannot be disregarded and humiliated any further. By writing posts like these, I hope to tap in to some common decency that will help the club find the motivation to work on the resolution,that was passed overwhelmingly by club owners, twelve months ago…

COYR.

Since writing this, it has come to my attention that the issue of a second disabled platform is back on the club’s agenda. I am not holding my breath for any improvement in the near future, but I would love to be proved wrong. It is about time the club concentrated on becoming a true community club where everyone is welcomed and included.

 

If It Doesn’t Challenge You, It Won’t Change You

It has been a busy old week that has included hospital visit to the cardiologist and physiotherapist, as well as stressful meetings with the Wrexham Supporters Trust board and illuminating emails from Welsh Labour bureaucrats  that clearly show that the Welsh Government have something to hide over the WILG debacle.

HEALTH 

It has been a mixed week health wise. Depending on where you stand, my visit to the cardiologist revealed good/bad news that my heart is in good working order and I don’t have to return to the cardiologist for another twelve months.

I have also been to see the physiotherapist who raised concerns about my posture in my wheelchair. This echoed concerns raised by the wheelchair assessment team who I visited a few weeks ago. While I was with the physiotherapist she showed me, on a skeleton, the extent of my scoliosis. It was upsetting to watch her bend the spine of the skeleton in to a disfigured position. I guess this is life with ataxia – constantly trying to come to terms with a disability that is forever stressing.

MEETING WITH WREXHAM SUPPORTERS TRUST 

On Wednesday night I was at a meeting with some familiar faces who I have mingled with for over thirty years, as a Wrexham AFC supporter. However, the majority of people at this meeting between the board of Wrexham Supporters Trust and the Disabled Supporters Association Committee did not seem to show any understanding of consideration to the plight of disabled supporters in general.

This is neither the time, nor place to go into a deep discussion of everything that was said at the meeting – I will save that for another day, but it should be noted that I was hugely disgruntled by the attitudes shown by a so-called ‘community club’.

SUSPICIOUS MINDS

I will be writing a separate blog dedicated to the highly suspicious actions of the Welsh Government in the latest communication as the battle to #SaveWILG continues and intensifies.

I am being put under an intense amount of pressure as my body deteriorates and being forced to fight for the right of disabled people against the Welsh Government, Wrexham Council and Wrexham AFC. Luckily I have been fighting all of my life and I have the strength and stamina to carry on standing up for what is right thanks to my amazing circle of friends and comrades…

TOM ALLEN 

36634891_10155554936421846_1430258593860419584_On Thursday evening [26/7/2018] I went to watch the supremely funny Tom Allen in action at William Aston Hall at Glyndwr University.

I have watched this comedian performing before, when he starred alongside Suzi Ruffell at the Catrin Finch Centre, which is also part of Glyndwr University.

When I heard that Allen was performing at the Catrin Finch Centre again, I quickly snapped up tickets. This was some time last year I think. Earlier this year I received a phone call saying that due to the high demand for tickets, the show would be moved to the larger William Aston Hall. I was disappointed by this as the Catrin Finch Centre is a more intimate venue, where comedians do not need to rely on the use of a microphone. This is good for me and my hearing, which struggles to fully grasp what is being said when a voice is projected through a microphone.

Last night proved that this is indeed the case. I was frustrated beyond belief as Allen energetically pranced around the stage in front of me, and came out with classic quips judging by the roars of laughter around me. Alas, I could not decipher any of the jokes and could only pick up on certain words such as ‘party rings’, ‘ham sandwiches’ and   ‘Phil Spencer’.

Subsequently, I decided to leave at the interval. This was no judgement on Tom Allen, but just another frustrating sign that my progressive condition is accelerating and stopping me from doing things that I enjoy. What I really needed was subtitles and this got me thinking. Last week, I attended a Disability Wales conference on Direct Payments in Newtown, Mid Wales. Disability Wales had organised for  Palyntype support to be available.

This is basically a machine for typing in shorthand, now often used in transcribing speech to text for deaf people.This transcription was projected on to a large screen so those that are hard of hearing can follow everything that is being said. I found this to be extremely useful and beneficial, and would have appreciated it last night. If I ever #SaveWILG this is something that I would like to campaign for being used in may more locations across the country, as we strive to make events accessible to all.

I am hoping for a quieter weekend…

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.

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…