Ebbsfleet United

BBC News Report: Wrexham FC in row with disabled supporters’ group

The following article appears on BBC News website. 

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A row has broken out between a football club and its disabled supporters’ group.

Wrexham FC said the club’s Disabled Supporters Association (DSA) went “on strike” after it had a ticket and an on-pitch presentation request refused.

The DSA usually assigns the spaces for wheelchair users but the club said it had to do this itself at a recent match and is now running it itself.

The DSA said the issue was about the presentation.

Wrexham Supporters Trust, which runs the club, spoke out following a “growing social media storm”.

The row centres around the club refusing a request for complimentary match tickets and a pitch presentation for to the DSA after being recognised for an award at a fans’ diversity ceremony in London.

The DSA is part of Allies in Access group and it wanted a similar Midlands-based association to visit for the Ebbsfleet match on 12 October and have the presentation on the pitch.

The club said it was unable to help due to “competition rules” but an offer remained open for a pitch-side photo call on a non-match day as a compromise.

However, following the disagreement and “strike”, the club’s statement said the DSA’s “presence will not be required on the platform… 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,” the statement said.

“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.”

The DSA said the “sour point” was the club’s response to refusing the presentation.

The DSA claimed it had been told that was because it was not a club-related matter.

A statement added: “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’.”

It said that left some committee members frustrated and said they would not be on duty for the game against Ebbsfleet.

“I won’t belong to a club that does not accept me as a member”

I have been a supporter of Wrexham AFC for 35 years. I have ploughed tens of thousands of pounds into the club I love. My relationship with the football club has been the one consistent relationship in my life and  outlasted failed relations with the opposite sex. I believed I would be Wrexham til I die, but unfortunately things don’t always turn out the way you expect them to.

The way the Disabled Supporters Association has been treated over the past few years is nothing short of a disgrace. The DSA is run by a team of dedicated committee members who represent the best interests of football supporters from all walks of life. They have done a sterling job in trying to maintain a community feel around a heartless carcass of a club.

The official club statement below describes the club’s biased view, but there are two sides to every story. I have been busy with the #SaveWILG campaign so have not been able to give this divide my full attention. I only know that instead of welcoming disabled supporters, Wrexham AFC are driving them away and totally failing in their moral obligations to the community at large.

Nothing has happened with regard to the resolution that myself and Ian Parry made to the Wrexham Supporters Trust (WST) AGM back in 2018. To read the full story about this, click here.

Because I no longer feel welcomed at the Racecourse, it is with a heavy heart that I have decided to cancel my monthly direct debit to the WST. I cannot justify giving any more money to an organisation that clearly does not value my presence at games. Last season, the club actually used a hashtag at the end of their tweets – #WeAreOneTeam. This is an absolute joke and I encourage everyone with an ounce of solidarity and common decency to listen to their hearts before deciding whether or not to return to the Racecourse while the current regime is in control.

Wrexham fans might be interested in knowing about the eBay auctions that I will be listing soon of all the merchandise I have collected since we have been under the ownership of the WST. I have to find a way of getting some compensation. I will notify readers when these auctions go live.

I will still be writing my book about the history of the club. The volume will only focus on our time in the Football League when it was worth attending the Racecourse. I can’t recall the last time I actually got excited at a Wrexham game. Sadly, I just don’t have the time to waste anymore. The median age of death for someone with Friedreich’s Ataxia is 35. I am now 42 and determined to squeeze the most out of life while I can.

Cheers WST, you may have done me a favour…

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WST STATEMENT | STATEMENT REGARDING WREXHAM DSA & VIEWING PLATFORM

The Wrexham Supporters Trust need to respond to a growing social media storm regarding the club taking over the stewarding of the viewing platform at the Racecourse from the Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association. It is important that the situation is clarified and people understand the background to the decision.

Before the game vs Ebbsfleet

In the run up to the home fixture vs Ebbsfleet United, Wrexham AFC received a request from the DSA for complimentary tickets and a presentation on the pitch before our game against St Mirren Colts on Saturday, 12th October for a group called the ‘Allies in Access’.

Unfortunately we were unable to facilitate this request on this occasion as rules of the competition do not allow for complimentary tickets to be given away, apart from those stipulated by the competition.

The presentation on the pitch was for the ‘Allies in Access’ group who had won an award recently at the ‘Fans for diversity’ awards, which Wrexham DSA attended. The Allies in Access are a group based in the West Midlands, who represent their clubs, Walsall, Wolves, West Brom, Birmingham and Aston Villa. The group support their own clubs with disability requirements.

Unfortunately, Wrexham AFC were further unable to facilitate this request due to the tunnel area being restricted from 2pm onwards on matchday. This operation is standard practice at all of our home games.

As a compromise, the WST and Wrexham AFC offered the DSA to invite the ‘Allies in Access’ group for a pitchside photograph on a non-match day, an offer that is still open.

Upon receiving the news, the DSA contacted the club on Friday, 27th September to inform us they were going on ‘strike’ and would not be attending the Ebbsfleet game the following day in protest.

The DSA also informed our stadium manager and our DLO they were not prepared to supply the names of the supporters attending the platform and intended not to run their Audio Descriptive Commentary (ADC).

This left Wrexham AFC in a difficult position, with no alternative other than to steward the platform ourselves, so some of our most vulnerable supporters received the match day services they have become accustomed to.

Wrexham AFC contacted the suppliers of the ADC to see if we could make alternative arrangements to allow our supporters who use the service an option to have the commentary on the day. As a contingency measure we made plans for the commentators to sit next to the users of the commentary service.

The day of the game vs Ebbsfleet

Thankfully a DSA committee member contacted the club on the Saturday morning to say that they were prepared to organise the ADC, as Wrexham AFC did not have access to the equipment required. Wrexham AFC are grateful to the DSA committee member for providing the service, as we know how valuable it is to those supporters who use the ADC.

At midday in the run up to the game the DSA having previously informed us they were withholding the names of who was due to be on the platform, thankfully changed their stance and provided the names of the platform users to the club.

Unfortunately, Wrexham AFC were unable to provide any assistance with the car parking at Glyndwr University. Wrexham AFC do not have an organising relationship for activities in the car park area, which are usually carried out by the DSA in conjunction with the owners of the car park.

Following the Ebbsfleet Fixture

An email was sent to the DSA the following Thursday, as we had not been informed if they were intending to resume their role providing stewarding on the platform for the fixture vs Harrogate Town. So that alternative arrangements could be arranged in time, a deadline was put in place, if the deadline wasn’t met, the club would need seek to make alternative arrangements, as 12pm is the cut off for making professional staffing arrangements.

The DSA replied to an email after the deadline and as such Wrexham AFC operations had already acted to put alternative arrangements into place to ensure the platform could be used by our supporters, both on Tuesday and for the rest of the season, so we can be certain to keep continuity of service to fans.

The decision was not taken lightly and given the situation, Kerry Evans, Wrexham AFC Disability Liaison Officer has agreed to take over the organisation of the platform alongside her other roles at the club, which will not be affected by her taking the extra work on.

The DSA kindly agreed to deliver the ADC at the Ebbsfleet game and have been invited to continue to deliver the service at the Racecourse Ground on match days. Should the DSA feel unable to provide the receivers to our supporters who use the service, Wrexham AFC will look to source more receivers to ensure ADC can continue.

There appears to be some confusion among supporters regarding the DSA and disability projects that are being run by Wrexham AFC through Kerry Evans.

Wrexham AFC projects include:

  • The Autism Friendly area and quiet room
  • Accessible away travel scheme
  • Kerry has been instrumental in Wrexham AFC and The Racecourse being the first professional football club in Wales to be granted Autism Friendly status
  • Dementia friendly status for the ground
  • Autism friendly football sessions
  • Anti-bullying workshops in schools
  • Representing Wrexham AFC in her official capacity at many community events in the area. Kerry will continue to provide our supporters with all the usual along with these extra tasks.

The DSA’s role on matchdays has been:

  • Stewarding the viewing plaform
  • Handing out receivers for the ADC
  • Working with the WSA on the Blue badge car parking
  • Supporting Wrexham DSA members

In the spirit of openness and transparency, below is a copy of the email sent to the DSA informing them of the decision by Wrexham AFC.

We would prefer to resolve these issues in a face to face meeting and by reasonable discussion, but when individuals resort to social media it is important that the full facts are brought to the attention of our supporters. That is why we have taken the unusual step of making this statement.

Ultimately all of us want to provide the best facilities for all our fans and our DLO in particular has worked tirelessly to help bring that about. In fairness to her (and our other volunteers) it is important that the full facts are aired in response to what others have chosen to publish.

“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.

Memory Match – 29-03-15

Throughout the 2016/17 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I will be penning a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I will share in this blog over the coming months.

29-03-15

North Ferriby United v Wrexham

FA Trophy Final

Wembley

Result: 3-3 (North Ferriby United win 5-4 on pens)

North Ferriby United: Nicklin, Toliss, Wilde, King, Wilson, Hone, Clarke, Fry, Denton, Bolder, St Juste

Goalscorers: King (76 pen), Kendall (86, 101)

Wrexham: Coughlin, Tomassen, Smith, Hudson, Ashton, Harris, Keates, Clarke, Morris, Moult, Jennings Goalscorers: Moult (11, 118), Harris (59)

Attendance: 14,585

 

Do I really have to write this? Surely, it’s best forgotten, but sometimes if we revisit nightmares we can learn lessons to prevent making the same mistakes again.

On their road to Wembley, Wrexham have beaten Southport, Stockport County, Gateshead, FC Halifax Town and Torquay United 5-1 over two legs in the semi-final. Meanwhile, our opponents, North Ferriby United of the Vanarama North, had beaten Mickleover Sports, Boston United, Hyde, Farnborough, Ebbsfleet United and Bath City (on penalties) in the semi-final, after drawing 3-3 with the Romans over two legs.

Surely Wrexham would have no trouble picking up their second FA Trophy title in two years against a team of part-timers from a Yorkshire village?

It all started so well. On the 11th minute, Louis Moult managed to put Kevin Wilkin’s men ahead when he tapped the ball in from inside the six-yard box. Joe Clarke and Connor Jennings had worked the ball well on the left wing with the latter finding Moult in the box to give the Dragons an early lead.

Billy Heath’s North Ferriby side squandered their best chance of the half on 32 minutes and Andy Coughlin was alert to save well from winger Danny Clarke.

Wrexham did make it 2-0 on 59 minutes through Jay Harris. The midfielder had just returned to the pitch after receiving treatment and he raced through from the right side to slot past Adam Nicklin at the near post.

Seemingly in control, Kevin Wilkin then made the biggest mistake of his managerial career when he substituted Dean Keates on 70 minutes. Our experienced captain had been controlling the midfield and organising his troops as usual, so to take him off when he wasn’t even injured seemed bizarre.

The Villagers were handed a lifeline on the 76th minute when Clarke was fouled in the box by Coughlin. Captain Liam King stepped up and smashed the ball into the back of the net to make it 2-1. Things were beginning to unravel.

Seven minutes after replace Russell Fry, substitute Ryan Kendall grabbed the equaliser when he was in the right place at the right time to convert Jason St Juste’s cross and force extra time.

Just after the 100-minute mark, North Ferriby took the lead for the first time when Kendall doubled his tally. St Juste’s deflected cross found the head of Kendall who nodded past a helpless Coughlin. What was going on?

Wrexham piled the pressure in the final 15 minutes and were rewarded for their efforts when Moult smashed in the equaliser with minutes left on the clock.

The shootout went to sudden death and Steve Tomassen was the unlucky player to miss the deciding spot kick to confirm North Ferriby as 2015 FA Trophy winners.

Wrexham manager Kevin Wilkin said: “I’m gutted. We had a great opportunity to put ourselves in the driving seat and to give the game away like we have, I feel we’ve left people down today.

“There were no issues, but then we started dropping off and getting deep again. We didn’t defend crosses, we didn’t get tight to people and gave them time and space. But credit to North Ferriby, they stuck to their work.

“I’m here to do a job. I’ve worked hard at it, had a couple of great cup runs but the league form hasn’t been exactly where we need it to be. There’s been a lot of changes, and we need to keep pushing that on for Wrexham.”

Wilkin was relieved of his duties the following day, but what is particularly depressing is that worse was to follow…