Fulham FC are known for many things, history, sportsmanship, style and also for welcoming everyone to the club. To carry on and expand on this grand tradition, the Fulham Disabled Supporters Association (DSA) was formed earlier this year by a group of regular fans, some disabled themselves, others with children, other family members or friends with visible or hidden disabilities, who wanted to do what they could to help supporters find a voice, and for the club to have a way of working more closely with a wider community.
Mark Davies and Iain Davie of the DSA talk through where it started and what the DSA is involved with today.
How We Started
As part of the Riverside development, the club contacted supporters with disabilities in November 2018 to come along to hear about the plans and to begin an on-going communication with the supporters to keep them fully involved in the development.
The club was also keen to hear from the supporters about their requirements from the new stand, and also, to hear their ideas. These meetings evolved into a forum to discuss access issues for the whole ground and other issues affecting the experience for supporters with disabilities. With the support of both the club and Level Playing Field, this group grew into the Disabled Supporters Association.
Who We Are And What We Do
The Fulham DSA are a group of enthusiastic Fulham supporters who are committed to doing what we can to help. Our objective is to co-ordinate and communicate the views, ideas and concerns of Fulham supporters with both visible and hidden disabilities, to provide them with the best matchday experience possible, both home and away. We are all just regular Fulham supporters, most going home and away and some of our members were active in the campaign to save The Cottage! We meet monthly but we work with each other and the club whenever needed, and we are of course keen to invite anyone along who is interested in finding out more or who would be keen to join in. We will officially launch at the Forest game with members handing out flyers and answering any questions but if you would like to get in touch with us then you can find us on Twitter at @FulhamDSA or mail us at FulhamDSA@gmail.com
Our Relationship With The Club
Throughout our process, we have received strong support from the club. They are keen to receive our input and also to use the DSA as a forum to discuss issues with supporters with disabilities. The DSA is independent of the club, but the club are continuing to be helpful to provide resources and assistance. The DSA views itself as a “critical friend” to the club; we support their efforts to improve the experience for supporters with disabilities, but we will continue to ask the awkward questions.
Association With Level Playing Field
Level Playing Field is a national charity that promotes the inclusive spectator experience for people with disabilities at a wide range of sporting events and venues. As part of this, they take an active role insupporting the creation and development of disabled supporter associations at football clubs across the country. The Fulham DSA have received fantastic support from LPF during our first few months, and the LPF will continue to be a valuable resource as we continue to grow.
What We’ve Achieved So Far
Even though we have only been active for a few months we have beinvolved with a number of initiatives that are making a difference toour disabled supporters. In addition to working with the club to helprelocate the disabled supporters who sat in The Riverside Stand we have also lobbied for a number of changes to be made at away games,when some of our members were a unable to view the game due to other supporters standing throughout the whole match. We appreciate that this is all part of away support, so we have now worked with the club to reserve the first few rows of our allocation to be held fordisabled supporters. At The Cottage we have introduced a AccessAssistance phone number on match days to help resolve any accessissues inside the ground, and soon you will start to see Fulham fans wearing Sunflower Lanyards in and around Craven Cottage! These are a nationally recognised initiative, first introduced at the airports to help those with hidden disabilities such as autism and mental health issues and they will help our stewards and staff to recognise this without the need for the wearer to declare it, allowing a greater feeling of security and independence.
What we’re working on
As part of our launch, we are keen to establish contact with supporters with disabilities, their friends and families, and to encourage them to become members of the DSA and to get involved in shaping the future of the group. We will shortly be launching a survey of supporters with disabilities and others to find out more about what issues and concerns they may have, with a view to working with the club to address them.
Pie or Pasty?
Not a competition, 100%, pie every time !!!