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Partially sighted football supporter tells clubs 'there’s still a lot of work to be done' on accessibility

A white partially sighted man wearing a baseball cap, holding a yellow football and a cane walks onto a football field in front of a football team in a red kit. At his side is a white woman with long brown hair. In front of him is a black man with a shaved head wearing a black referee uniform.

Adam Woodmason walks out with his team Ipswich Town.

Adam Woodmason, a follower of Ipswich Town, despite positive, accessible experiences at Portman Road, urges other clubs in the UK to make their stadiums more accessible.

Our research shows that blind and partially sighted fans are half as likely to attend live sporting events than sighted fans in England, due to venue accessibility.

Adam is registered as severely sight impaired and contacted Ipswich Town Football Club’s Disability Manager, Lee Smith, to ensure his match day experience was as accessible as possible.

Adam remembers: “He said that I was welcome to sit wherever I liked in the grounds and that they would provide me with a companion ticket, alongside a commentary, so that I didn’t have to bring a pocket radio with me.”

For sporting clubs that want guidance on making the match day experience accessible for spectators with sight loss, RNIB published, with British Blind Sport, guidelines on best practice.

Blind and partially sighted football fans identified five key areas clubs should consider: building a tangible sense of belonging; sight loss awareness training for stewards, audio descriptive commentary; the physical environment; and accessible matchday programmes.

At Ipswich, Adam also reached out to the Senior Blues, a programme, funded by the club’s Foundation, that leads wellness sessions for older Ipswich Town Football fans. Leanne Smith, the Foundation’s Community Engagement Officer, welcomed Adam to join their sessions, which run on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month, and provide an inclusive environment for socialising, alongside sports such as seated yoga, health and wellbeing activities, and the chance to revisit Ipswich Town nostalgia.

Adam has shared his experience as a football fan with sight loss.

Adam was included in a short film about the foundation’s work: “And then, about a year later, when the club appeared on TV during the EFL weekend, they selected me to be involved as the ‘Community Hero’. I walked out with both the Town’s team and their opposition, Sunderland A.F.C., and did televised interviews on the side of the pitch.”

However, a year later, Adam believes there is still a problem with accessibility at football in general; he wants his positive experiences at Ipswich to show other clubs how they can improve.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done to make football accessible,” he insists. “So, it’s important to raise the profile of people like me, who like to go to games. Because a lot of football clubs up and down the country don’t have the service that I’ve benefitted from.”

He explained that this is why he is so keen to tell his story.

“My experience with Ipswich Town Football Club shows that it is still possible for blind and partially sighted people to go to matches and enjoy them.”

Download the guidance to find out more and get in touch with us for support to implement the guidance at your club.