Wigan Athletic to improve matchday experience for autistic fans

Latics stars Gary Roberts, Lee Evans, David Marshall, Lewis MacLeod and Antonee Robinson sporting the ear defenders
Latics stars Gary Roberts, Lee Evans, David Marshall, Lewis MacLeod and Antonee Robinson sporting the ear defenders

Wigan Athletic have backed a scheme to improve the match day experience for fans with autism.

Working with Wigan Council and Autism Friends to create autism-friendly stadia, Latics are offering fans the chance to borrow ear defenders while key staff have undertaken autism friends training. Supporters will also be able to enter the ground using the side entrance as opposed to turnstiles.

The ear defenders will allow supporters with autism who are sensitive to crowd noise to attend matches without feeling uncomfortable and allowing them to enjoy their match day experience watching Wigan Athletic.

Latics fan Mark Holdsworth, whose son Ethan has autism said: “The ear defenders were great quality and it made Ethan happy that they had the club badge on them. It’s a great initiative by the club and we will definitely use them again for Ethan, the next time we come to a game.”

Supporters will be able to benefit from an enhanced match day experience thanks to a Premier League Fans Fund grant which has enabled Wigan Athletic Community Trust to improve facilities for junior disabled supporters, including the ear defenders and the Blue Room.

The Blue Room is a pre-match area at the DW Stadium for the club’s junior disabled supporters to take part in various inclusive activities, and is open for an hour and a half at every Saturday and Bank Holiday fixture.

Tom Purser, head of campaigns and public engagement at the National Autistic Society, said: “It’s great that Wigan Athletic FC are considering the needs of their autistic fans. There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK and they and their families want to enjoy the same activities and opportunities that others take for granted - and this includes going to football matches.

“Many autistic people experience sensory sensitivity, where light, sound, taste and touch can become physically overwhelming. This means that the noise in a football stadium could be uncomfortable or even painful for some autistic people. Introducing a straightforward and important change like providing ear defenders will help some autistic supporters enjoy the experience at the match.”

The ear defenders will be available to collect from 1pm on the day of the game up until kick off from DW Stadium reception, with supporters required to pay a £5 deposit, which will be given back on their return after the game.