Tomorrow afternoon the country’s first ‘Autism-Friendly’ football match will take place at the Racecourse.
The Wrexham v Woking match to raise awareness of Autism, will be run in partnership with Wrexham based charity, Autism Wishes.
The idea behind the Autism-friendly match occurred when Autism Wishes contacted the Wrexham FC Disabled Supporters Association to see if it would be possible to facilitate an Autism-friendly match. The Association currently has in excess of 100 members, and is constantly looking at ways and means of trying to improve the match day experience for disabled supporters.
The charitable partner scheme is a Wrexham Supporters Trust initiative run in conjunction with Wrexham Football Club that seeks to help raise awareness and profile a number of local charities each year through a combination of planned arrangements that are intended to support partner charities with their fundraising events.
This year Autism Wishes is one of four charities that is supporting the Wrexham Supporters Trust.
It is expected that a group of at least 50 will attend the Racecourse tomorrow afternoon to watch the Reds play against Woking.
Jo Perera, who helped set up Autism Wishes said: “We’re trying to get everyday things achievable for people with Autism.
“It shows that football matches are accessible to everyone, nothing is impossible with the right things in place.”
The group will have a section of the Mold Road Stand’s ‘Family Section’ set aside for them and will have had the chance to pay visit the ground a couple of days beforehand to familiarise themselves with their surroundings and purchase their tickets.
Autism is a lifelong development disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to other people. It can also affect how they make sense of the world around them. It is a spectrum condition, which means that although people with autism may share certain difficulties, each person will be affected by the condition differently.
Autism effects 1 in 100 people, which is roughly 3000 people in Wales alone. In Wrexham there are over 200 families who have a child or relative who suffer from autism.
Speaking about the Autism-friendly match, Jo said: “Wrexham FC have always been behind us, it’s going to be a positive experience.
“A few of the children have been to football matches before, it won’t work for everyone, just as long as we have the basics in place.”
Since launching earlier this year, Autism Wishes have already raised £5,500 for charity and also grant ‘wishes’ to children in the area who are on the Autism spectrum. Throughout the year, Autism Wishes has granted three out of four wishes to children living with Autism; including providing a child who loves tractors with the opportunity to spend a day with Malpas tractors.
The match is set to be the first of its kind in the country, and has already attracted interest from Exeter football club. It is hoped that if the event is successful, then more football clubs will host something similar.
Simon Johnson, a Wrexham season ticket holder and dad to Mollie, aged 10, who has Autism, explained why the scheme was proving so popular: “Like most families, we are always looking for fun activities to do together but having a child with autism means it isn’t always easy to do things that most people take for granted, like attending football matches.
“Mollie, for example, would not always be able to tolerate new surroundings, particularly somewhere as loud and busy as a football ground. We are also extremely conscious of disturbing other people if we were at events and so tend to avoid them. By giving us our own section of the ground where we will be seated with other families in the same boat we will feel much more comfortable and the pre-match visit will help many of the children who have issues adapting to new environments.
“I’ve seen and attended similar initiatives at cinemas across the country but I believe that this is the first time a football club has done this. I would like to offer my thanks to the DSA, Autism Wishes and everyone at Wrexham Football Club for making this possible. It will mean a great deal to lots of families who have never had this chance before.”
Anyone wishing to attend the match in the ‘autism friendly’ section should contact Jo Perera from Autism Wishes on (07769) 210919. More details are available on the Autism Wishes Facebook page.