We have had a tiny slither of success at St Mary’s Stadium (Southampton FC). The supporter relations team have confirmed that the first aid rooms are being made available to anyone with additional needs for changing purposes. They are located in all stands, except the Northam I believe. This is a little step in the right direction, but of course only of use to those who can be transferred to a changing bed without a hoist. Don’t get me wrong. It is a positive move, but it’s sadly nowhere near enough.
I believe that a multi-million pound business like a Premier League Football Club with a huge disabled supporter base, has a moral obligation to do way more and that they should be installing a Changing Places facility, with full sized changing bed, ceiling hoist and peninsular toilet, during this close season, making a firm commitment to all disabled supporters, not just some. And more than that. That they should want to, to show they really do care. Why stall? It’s an easy thing to do (in the close season) and it can only make them look good, attract more fans and leave them less likely to end up with an insurance claim should somebody get injured having to be dangerously lifted at the stadium. I honestly don’t know why they would want to wait. If they are actually going to install one, why not tell us and get the credit they would deserve, rather than constantly ‘fluff’ around the subject, hinting that they may in one breath and then saying that they cannot confirm when or if they will, in another.
So what are they not telling us? Is the club about to be sold perhaps? Or is the lack of commitment simply a case of them really not understanding how wide and urgent the need is?
I wonder if the son or daughter of the Southampton chairman, owners or stadium manager, were severely disabled, if we would even be having this conversation? We probably wouldn’t be would we?
If this were the case, I’d put money on the fact that we would be the most accessible stadium in the Premier League. Because they would understand the tears, the heartache, the lack of public awareness, the lack of support from a government that also does not care about society’s most vulnerable. They would understand how hard it is as a parent to not be able to take away pain, frustrations and medical problems, that make the simple every day things we take for granted, like going to the toilet, a huge challenge. They would appreciate that being able to do the things you love with your family and being included, makes all the difference. And they would be standing beside me, shoulder to shoulder, saying: ‘Hey, this isn’t right! We need a Changing Places at St Mary’s stadium. ASAP! We can’t expect people to lay on floors or be dangerously lifted, or for them to have to sit in their own excrement. Not in 2016!’