Creating an inclusive football club

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We recently spoke to Dave Messenger, Supporter Liaison & Disability Access Officer at Watford Football Club to find out what they are doing to be a totally inclusive football club.

Please tell us a little about yourself and Watford FC

Dave Messenger, I’m the Supporter Liaison & Disability Access Officer for Watford FC. We’re a professional football club based in South West Hertfordshire, currently playing in the Premier League.

I started working for the club as an SLO, having supported them since childhood, on promotion to the Premier League in the summer of 2015. The disability access part of my role was added in September 2015.

What is your D&I mission for 2020 and beyond?

Having been part of the Premier League’s commitment to accessibility in 2015, the club has spent a few years meeting the minimum guidelines for our facilities as set out in the Accessible Stadia Guide. We met these requirements during the 2018/19 season and with the structural work done, our focus since the start of the 2019/20 season has been bringing service related improvements to both home and visiting disabled supporters, especially those with hidden disabilities.

Can you share some best practice examples?

We have a dedicated section on our club’s website, which contains our Access Statement. This is also available in a “text-only” format. There is also an on-line tour of our accessible provision across the stadium and we have recently implemented a Hidden Disability Card Scheme, aimed at providing supporters with confidence that our stadium staff will be able to assist with any requirements on a matchday.

Comments regarding being accessible across your online landscape?

It’s hugely important for our website, and the information included, to be as accessible as possible. Part of the commitment to accessibility Premier League clubs made related to our web offering. Football stadia can be daunting for supporters with disabilities, so making our information as user-friendly as possible helps us ensure all visitors to Vicarage Road can make decisions and plans before they come to a match.

We’re delighted to launch the Recite Me toolbar as part of our recent website update. Giving our supporters control of how the website looks will enable all supporters to easily access the information they want and need.

Share an example of D&I success

The club has been at the forefront of the drive to improve stadium facilities for children with autism and our Sensory Room, opened in late 2016, has now seen over 100 families attend a match at Vicarage Road. Of those families, 15 have transitioned to using general access areas of the stadium having broken down the barriers to their attendance using the Room.

Concluding company message

We’re proud of our long-held reputation for being a family football club and our on-going commitment to accessibility remains central to our work, as we continue to identify and make improvements to our provision for all disabled visitors to our club.

Guest Blog with Dave Messenger, Supporter Liaison & Disability Access Officer, Watford Football Club

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