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Safety needs of neurodiverse fans

Developments to ticketing, staff training and matchday information will improve the experience of neurodiverse fans, according to research commissioned by the SGSA.

The research explored the experiences of neurodiverse fans before and after sports events, including buying tickets, planning trips, as well as experiences of travel to venues, entry and exit.

According to findings, although participants reported positive experiences attending live events, there were many areas where experiences could be improved, and there is scope for further support.

Suggestions for improvements included:

  • Easier process for booking tickets that would reduce the need to repeatedly explain or justify their access requirements.
  • More information provided ahead of the event such as what to expect in terms of arrival and transport; security checks and what could be brought into the venue; seating layout; and who they could speak to for help.
  • More consideration on venue arrival. Being physically close to other people can be overstimulating and lead to a rise in anxiety. Participants wanted greater availability of accessible parking or more drop off locations nearer the venues. They also felt there should be more accessible entrances with consistent staffing who understand neurodiverse spectators.
  • Better staff training. Negative encounters were reported arising from a lack of understanding from staff. They felt staff, particularly stewards, should receive training to be more aware of, better understand and support neurodiverse fans.
  • Better venue design. Negative experiences where venues had narrow concourses and gangways or closely packed seating were reported. Fans often relied on support from other people to find their way around venues, but suggested new stadia should be built with wider, more spacious concourses, gangways, and seating. Signage could also be improved using pictures, colours, and larger text.
  • Provision of additional facilities. Participants were supportive of the provision of sensory rooms for neurodiverse children and for those with more complex needs but noted that there were various limitations to these. They advocated having more quiet spaces closer to seating areas that could be accessed without prior booking and be used as a space to moderate anxiety or stress.
  • Safety. Many of the factors that improved participants’ overall experience also made them feel safer while attending live events. These included accessible/open seating and accessible venue design, support from family or friends, and a strong presence of trustworthy staff who understood the requirements of the range of fans.
  • Improved engagement from clubs/venues through a ‘neurodiversity champion’ to understand the requirements among the supporter base. Participants also felt that clubs/venues could do more to raise awareness with other spectators.

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