Football officers aiming to improve matchday experience for fans with disabilities
Main article content
Nottinghamshire’s football officers have met with disabled fans to listen to some of the challenges they face at matches.
PC Simon Travell and PC John Albanese both attended a conference this week aimed at improving supporters’ matchday experience.
The dedicated football officers are familiar faces to many match-going fans of the county’s main clubs – policing all three sides’ games between them.
While PC Travell attends Nottingham Forest fixtures home and away, PC Albanese has responsibility for covering Notts County and Mansfield Town matches.
Ensuring people are able to enjoy watching the football safely is a key part of both officers’ roles – and that includes supporting spectators that have a disability.
Bearing this in mind, the football policing unit officers attended a conference organised by charity ‘Level Playing Field’, which represents disabled fans in sport.
As well as listening to supporters’ concerns, the officers spoke about the importance of reporting a hate crime and the type of support the police can provide to victims.
Nottinghamshire Police was the only force represented at the regional conference, which was held on Tuesday (6 February) at Derby County’s Pride Park stadium.
PC Travell said: “It was a pleasure to be able to attend this important event and to engage with the wide range of supporters who came along on the day.
“We work closely with all three of Nottinghamshire’s main clubs and the supporters’ groups connected to them to try and ensure everyone can enjoy matches safely.
“Unfortunately, we do sometimes receive reports of criminality that can impact on this positive experience, and that includes hate crime.
“From listening to the views of disabled fans, we know they can sometimes feel undervalued when it comes to hate and can be hesitant in reporting abuse.
“This conference allowed us to talk to supporters about how they can report a hate crime, in all its forms, not just after a match but during one too, so that action can be taken straight away.
“It was also about increasing engagement between disabled fans and clubs – and we were there to be involved in the process and to try and support them with that.”
Owain Davies, Chief Executive of Level Playing Field, said: “The Level Playing Field Midlands Forum gave us the opportunity to hear so many different perspectives on access and inclusion, from across the region.
“Having officers in attendance meant they were able to hear directly from disabled fans, as well as the club staff they work alongside, to develop relationships and their understanding.
“Our annual fan surveys have shown year-on-year rises in disability abuse as a barrier to attending live sport, and the contributions made by the officers on discussions around that area were invaluable.
“The matchday experiences of disabled fans must always be a focus when managing fixtures and this engagement was therefore very encouraging.”
Lindsay Knott, chair of the Nottingham Forest Disabled Supporters’ Association, added: “We support fans with disabilities and their carers with a wide variety of issues, and it is really useful for us to be able to have regular dialogue with the police and Nottingham Forest so that we can all support anyone that experiences abuse relating to their disability.
“Sadly, this does happen, so it is important that the football policing unit – in our case PC Travell – is able to work with the club and ourselves so we can together see how fans can be supported and issues can be responded to.
“Anyone who experiences abuse should report it straight away, while we’d encourage anyone who would like the support of Nottingham Forest Disabled Supporters’ Association to contact us by emailing [email protected]”