Do clubs do enough for disabled fans? – An open letter to the Premier League

This season, every Premier League club has been instructed to spend £200,000 to better the experience of away fans. Many of the clubs, Arsenal included, are spending part of this on away fans visiting the Emirates Stadium, as well subsidising away tickets for travelling fans. Whilst all of this is positive news, making football a little bit (the subsidy is only £2.50 per game) more affordable and accessible, it seems there is one group of away fans who continue to get a raw deal when travelling away.

We were recently approached by a disabled Arsenal supporter to publish his open letter to the club and the Premier League highlighting the problems for disabled away supporters:

To whom it may concern,

Last week I’ve been to two games and been bitterly disappointed with the seats I’ve received from the club at both fixtures I’m afraid to say. In both instances I felt that I’ve wasted money on travel and ticket purchases as a result. Yes, I have a disability of being partially sighted from a generic condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which effects my night vision, as I can see inside stadiums as they have sufficient light but as soon as I’m outside relying on seeing from the aid of street lights I have a big problem.

The seating allocation I received for the Dortmund game was ridiculous! The nearest Arsenal fan to me was in a wheelchair at the half way line and Arsenal fans were the opposite end to me. Half of the actually match I spent extremely paranoid as one guy was continually staring at us, and it seemed like a few others were as well. I don’t speak German so that made me even more paranoid when we got looked at and then spoke in their native tongue. The guy who was continuously staring at us came up to us at half time and I can honestly say I was petrified, but he was actually friendly when he spoke to us, which was a huge relief.

In my humble opinion though I should have never have been put in this situation. When we scored I felt that I was not able to celebrate, as we were situated with home fans that were extremely pissed off to say the least. All I could do was look at our fans at the other end wishing I was able to celebrate with them. I’m not being funny but if I had watched it at home I would have been able to celebrate our goal with a smile on my face rather than sitting down feeling down!

As for Manchester United game yesterday, I’m afraid it was more of the same. We were stuck in seats with Manchester United supporters surrounding us, but this time our away fans were on top of us. As we arrived early with the arsenal coach we went into the ground to have a drink and something to eat. Unfortunately we felt uncomfortable eating because the only place to eat was with United fans, and surprise surprise they were staring at us!! So we had to leave that area and go to our seats until the game started even though we wanted to watch the game shown on the screens inside.

To make matters worse the United fan next to me through out the match was blatantly trying to wind me up to the point I wanted to hit him. I even heard him say to the guy beside him say “I’m gonna wind him up”, referring to me! Yet again, I feel that I would have been better off watching the game at home.

The bottom line is that I have spent over £200 over the last week to feel down, uncomfortable and paranoid. If I knew this was going to be the case I would not have travelled all those miles to have these emotions that are detrimental to my well-being, as I suffer from depression which I’m on medication, and pay for it!

Part of the reason why I make these trips are to get out the house and be with fellow Gooners win, draw and lose as we are family. I feel we are been segregated which makes it all pointless. As disabled supporters we should at least be told if we are seating with our own supporters so we can make an informed choice!

My eyes sight are deteriorating and I struggle outside to see in crowds in the dark, but what keeps me going is being with Arsenal fans, its one area in my life that makes me happy. If I do not need a platform I should not to be subject to this, as I just need seats. Sorry to repeat myself but I’m bitterly disappointed.

Leon Boreland

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