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:
- To have designated wheelchair and carer bays at the front of the Hays Travel stand.
- 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.
- That these new facilities are not tied in to, or dependent upon, any other stadium redevelopments.
- 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…
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.