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Blind Football Fan ‘Scores’ Support

A Ross County supporter has praised the club and leading sight loss charity, RNIB Scotland, for helping him to keep attending games.

Photo: The stadium grounds at Ross County FC.

Bruce Wilson (65) from Conon Bridge near Inverness, had been a Ross County supporter for many years when he first noticed his sight changing. He is one of over 180,000 people in Scotland who have sight loss.

“I was at the football when the pitch lines started to get squiggles on them,” he says. “But I just made excuses that I had bad glasses, it was the sunlight, and so on. Then when I was driving, lampposts weren’t completely straight, and the road markings also started to get squiggles and become distorted. And that’s when I went to the optician, and they confirmed I had macular degeneration.”

Photo: A visual example of how someone with macular degeneration might see the stadium grounds at Ross County FC. The centre of the field of vision is empty and blurry, but the peripheral vision remains.

Macular degeneration affects the central field of vision but, like 93% of people who are blind or partially sighted, Bruce can see some things, as he explains,

“I’m not at the point where I’d need a white cane, but some things can be difficult. Adjusting between light and dark, such as driving in the dark and seeing headlights, would be dangerous for me so I’ve stopped driving. Distinguishing between colours can also be tricky, like pouring clear water into white cup. But in other areas of life, technology can help- I’ve got a computer set up with the right font sizes and colour schemes that help me see the screen better. It might be garish for everyone else, but it works for me.”

When he was diagnosed, Bruce was referred to his local Eye Care Liaison Officer (ECLO). The service, run by sight loss charity RNIB Scotland throughout the NHS Highland region and beyond, can support people at and after the point of diagnosis, advise on aids and adjustments to make life easier, and provide information for family, friends, and carers.

It was in conversation with his local ECLO, Roslyn Munro, that Bruce raised his love of the Staggies. To attend games, he needed a seat at the end of an aisle to make it easier to navigate to and not trip up on other fans.

“Being a bit of a football fan herself, I told Roslyn about the seating, and she said that’s she’d see what she could do,” said Bruce. “Next thing I know, Ross County are calling me up and they talk me through some different ticketing options.

“As I’m over 65, I could get a half season ticket for a senior citizen’s rate, in addition to a free Carer’s ticket which means when I have a family member or friend supporting me, they can have a seat too. I was taken aback; I really couldn’t have asked for more.”

ECLO Roslyn Munro, who is based at the National Treatment Centre in Inverness, said,

"Bruce mentioned he was thinking about giving up going to the football because his sight loss made it difficult for him and he could not get an appropriate seat in his preferred spot.

“I realised the impact this would have on his mental health, so I arranged support to enable him to keep going. Being football fans ourselves, my ECLO colleague, Anita and I were only too glad to help and are delighted at the outcome for Bruce.

“The ECLO service is there for anyone affected by sight loss to get the practical and emotional support they need, when they need it, and is an important bridge between medical and non-medical services. We give people a safe, confidential space to discuss the issues they face with sight loss.”

Heather Henderson, Commercial Assistant, Ross County FC added,

“It was a pleasure to help Bruce out and ensure he can continue along to our games. We are all-inclusive and happy to go the extra mile where possible to help our supporters.

“We will always endeavour to do our best to accommodate an individual’s needs to make the Global Energy Stadium an accessible location to attend, and our staff are friendly and approachable.”

As well as the football, Bruce has received support as his sight loss has progressed, including information and resources to maintain his independence. He says,

“I was absolutely blown over by the support that was available from Roslyn and RNIB Scotland, from the practical support but also the counselling side of things.

“I’d urge anyone with changes to their sight, to go and get their eyes tested. The earlier they can catch any issues, the more that could be done to help.

“And if you do have sight loss, get in touch with your ECLO. I didn’t realise what was out there- invaluable information, and knowing they’re someone to contact if things go sideways. It’s priceless. With the support I’ve received, I’ve really scored.”