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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Little

Why was Hull City DSA formed?

Updated: Oct 22, 2023

What constitutes a disability? It is estimated that 16m uk (typically 1 in 4 residents) have a disability of some kind, whether that be hearing or vision difficulties, mobility problems, bladder or bowel disease, and mental health conditions as an example. Its defined as — a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities. Someone with Crohn's disease may not typically consider themselves as having a disability, but their often urgent need to use a toilet or the effects of joint pain will present issues watching a football match.

Any fan with rheumatoid arthritis or a degenerative muscle disease such as MS or muscular dystrophy will not relish having to stand for 90m minutes at an away match if all around them are standing.

In the summer of 2023 I discussed with another fans group about working on improving the experiences of Hull City fans with disabilities. This came about after a season had gone by without any representation of fans with disabilities at club meetings with supporters and I personally had been working with a number of national charities on promoting activities and fundraising initiatives which gave an insight into a number of conditions. How were the experiences of these fans being measured or assessed?

The logical answer was to survey those fans and their carers (if applicable) and find out how they felt.

The survey response exceeded expectations and provided some real insight as to how this group of fans felt. Respondents covered a wide age group and had varying levels of disabilities from wheelchair users to fans with autism and other such so-called ‘hidden disabilities’ like hearing problems or anxiety. The condition of anxiety was a recurring theme.

It identified barriers to attending matches such as issues with ticketing, anxiety and seating view restrictions, and a number of other problems. A number of solutions were suggested and ideas offered. At this point, it was how to progress the information received into a valuable resource for the club and fans. A working group was formed with fans from different backgrounds which eventually turned into a formal organisation under guidance from Level Playing Field. The Hull City DSA was formed with a number of like-minded fans working together for the benefit of disabled Hull City fans.

Contact was made with the club via a supportive fan who reinforced just how important she felt this work was, and the club listened.

Myself, Dan Little & Tom Butler were invited to meet with the club’s new Marketing Manager Andrew Clark. It was immediately apparent that there was a willingness from Andrew and the club to push ahead with plans to enhance facilities and experiences. A copy of the survey feedback was provided as a guide to the areas fans had identified as issues.

We all felt energized and have since pushed on to appoint stand reps and are building up a network of fans sharing feedback and constructive comments. As much guidance as possible is obtained from opposition Fans Liaison Officers prior to away fixtures to make the journey and ground experience better and easier. Our roving reporter Paul Robinson @tigerfan11 is providing detailed reports on away match experiences from his perspective as a wheelchair user.

This is just the start, already we are looking at stoma-friendly toilets, radar key access to disabled toilets, and an enhanced sensory room as projects for 2023 (check out the facility at Sheffield United for fans with sensory issues). But this is the start. Our aim is to make the MKM stadium the equal of our friends at Swansea one of the leading lights in disability facilities. There is much to learn.

David Batte, Chair Hull City Disabled Supporters Association

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