Blackburn Rovers is delighted to support this year’s Level Playing Field campaign and Saturday’s game against Coventry City will mark the start of the organisation’s annual Weeks of Action.
Prior to the game, Rovers players will show their support to our fans and for accessible venues by wearing LPF t-shirts during the warm-up.
This year, of course, we will be showing support in a slightly different way due to the exceptional circumstances we have all experienced over the past 12 months. However, the continued support of LPF in celebrating the successes of progress and raising awareness of good access to football is as strong as ever.
Removing and overcoming barriers to ensure access to services and facilities remains vitally important, as does our focus on enabling people to come to a match independently where possible and ensuring support is in place when needed.
Those of you who have been coming to Ewood for many years already know of our inclusive and integrated approach to help as many fans as possible to attend games whatever their circumstances. We always want to do more, but the priority at the moment is to be prepared for your eventual return to matches, whenever that is.
Why good access to football and the stadium is important for fans …
Rovers has an excellent reputation for ensuring everyone enjoys their visit to Ewood Park and much progress has been made over the last 25 years to make the facilities accessible for everyone.
We understand disabilities are wide-ranging in the challenges that people face and particularly for people whose circumstances are not always visible, such as people with learning disabilities, autism and mental ill-health.
Many fans have complex circumstances and individual needs vary, but they are all part of the crowd who enjoy football, with all the excitement and sometimes disappointment it brings, the same as everyone else. Some people have to overcome incredible challenges to even get to a football match and we are there to provide whatever support we can.
So what does football mean to fans with disabilities?
It means the same as it does to everybody else who is a football fan and supports their team!
Football and supporting your team is one thing that can bring everyone together. It can play an important part in people’s lives and sometimes being able to come to Ewood Park and support your team can be important for wellbeing and a first stage or milestone in recovery.
Through football, many of our fans have formed friendships and some have seen their confidence increase, simply by being able to be ‘part of the crowd’ like everyone else.
In the absence of being able to attend Saturday’s game and play a part in promoting the Level Playing Field campaign, some fans have been sharing their memories of coming to Ewood Park and have stressed how important live football is for them.
Covid and isolation has had a huge impact on wellbeing …
This last year has been difficult for all fans, both in a personal sense and in relation to football. It’s been particularly difficult for many disabled people who have been isolating and missed meeting up with other fans and enjoying the friendships that have been made through coming to the match.
Many people have missed the Christmas and End of Season parties. We have too!
We know how much everyone is missing live football and can’t wait to get back. It’s had a big impact and many people’s wellbeing has been greatly affected by changes to routine and daily life.
A Level Playing field fan survey showed 43% of respondents had indicated that the suspension of live sport had had a significant impact on mental health, showing how important football can be. A survey with some fans, undertaken by the club, showed how much fans were missing live football at Ewood and how much it means to them.
A lot of fans have been keeping in touch by speaking to club staff, attending the Fans Forum using Zoom and using iFollow Rovers, radio commentaries and TV broadcasts to follow the matches, as well as enjoying re-runs of past Rovers games.
We can’t wait for you to come back!
What’s great to know is that our survey and conversations with fans show many of you can’t wait to come back!
The club has been working with the authorities and Level Playing Field to prepare for it.
We’re ready and we can’t wait to see you!