It is with great disappointment that I have had to cancel my proposed tour around the 20 Premier League football grounds of England and Wales in aid of Level Playing Field. This is due to a number of factors. To begin with, I am just too busy with other projects such as my disability activism and Tanka poetry. I am also preparing another season of my popular Memory Match column for the Wrexham AFC matchday programme.
I have already received a sign shirt from Stoke City thanks to former Wrexham AFC goalkeeper Eddie Niedzwiecki. This will be auctioned in the next few weeks on the popular auction site, eBay with all proceeds being donated to Level Playing Field.
It used to be a ambition of mine to tour all the football grounds throughout Britain. Such was my obsession that I have visited close to 100 British stadiums. However, I have recently become disillusioned with the once beautiful game that has now been thoroughly and indecently raped by capitalism that the fun and innocence that was once present on a Saturday afternoon is now a thing of the past. My heart just isn’t in it anymore and my efforts are more urgently needed in the field of disability activism.
I can only apologise to Level Playing Field and the various clubs who are expecting visits from me, but my priority at the moment must be to promote independent living for all disabled people – whether they are football fans or not. Thank you for your understanding.
These were my original plans:
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
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.