Last night I took my son to Arsenal for his first match. He was buzzing all day for it.
I wasn’t sure if it he’d ever go as he has autism.
Once we were in the ground he struggled with about 50,000 people shouting and was having a hard time.
Halfway through the 1st half I could see he wasn’t going to get used to it so we had to leave.
When we left the stadium, a steward (blonde lady, wish i got her name), asked why we were leaving and I told her. She asked me to hold on and contacted someone else.
Next thing I know, we’re being walked towards club level.
Arsenal have got a sensory room there where we could watch the rest of the match.
The gentleman running the room, Luke Howard, was fantastic. As was everyone in there.
Between Luke & the stewards that helped, it turned my lads first game night into a great memory.
Arsenal have two sensory viewing rooms, opened in September 2017.
The club worked in conjunction with The Shippey Campaign, who call Arsenal’s two rooms “a wonderful sensory haven”.
The Shippey Campaign was set up by Kate Shippey MBE & Peter Shippey MBE.
They have 3 children with autism and the eldest, Nathan, fell in love with football.
In 2014 they took Nathan to his first game – armed with ear defenders, headphones with his favourite music, hats, ear plugs and a bag filled with his favourite comforters. By half time they were one their way home.
It was at this point they came up with the idea of sensory rooms in sports stadia.
They started with their home town club Sunderland and the Nathan Shippey Sensory Room opened in 2015.
They have since worked with the likes of of Arsenal, Watford, Notts County, Middlesbrough, WBA, Everton, Airdrieonians (the first sensory room in Scotland) and Rangers.
Celtic, Liverpool, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Newcastle United, Coventry, Tottenham, Brighton and Manchester City have also opened sensory rooms.
The Shippey Campaign has now gone worldwide – with them consulting on sensory rooms at the Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar and The New Perth Stadium in Australia, as well as Hong Kong, France and Germany. They have recently welcomed a USA Ambassador on their team.
In an era where clubs seem to focus more on commercial income rather than the experience of match going fans, sensory rooms are one area where the likes of Arsenal deserve high praise. Football is for everyone.
To read more about what Arsenal do to embrace diversity and equality, Arsenal for Everyone – written by friend of the site Dave Seager – is at Legends Publishing or you can wait for the official Arsenal launch at the Armoury on the 27th of November at the match. (Look out for details…)