Eight blind and partially sighted students were given a match day experience to remember at Hereford FC on Saturday. The students from The Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) were guests of Hereford FC Director Andrew Graham, the first step in a new partnership with the College to improve the clubs disability inclusion and community presence.

The match day experience was an opportunity for the visually impaired students to visit the club and watch a game. The day included a drinks reception in the Executive Lounge, meeting the Chairman, photos on the pitch and a presentation of a signed shirt. The students then took to their place in the stand where they were able to enjoy the atmosphere of the home fans.

Watching the game differently

How the students watch the game is different to all of the other fans; for student Chris, he used his phone close to his eyes and zoomed. Kieron listened to the live commentary on Hereford FC radio through the website. Some of other students listened to commentary that an RNC staff member gave during game whilst others may have had enough sight to make out something happening on the pitch.

For all the visually impaired students, what was easy to follow was the electric atmosphere, the constant chanting, singing and reactions from the Hereford supporters. For student Israel, it was his first match he had been to since losing his sight; ‘it was an amazing game, the place was bouncing and I’ve absolutely loved it! Even though I couldn’t see much of the action on the pitch I still felt like I could tell what was happening just by the supporters around me’.

Sixteen year old Megan was a little apprehensive prior to going; ‘I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy it, but I can honestly say that I’ve had a great day. The club was brilliant and they really looked after us; everyone from the club shop, the stewards and the other supporters we all welcoming and really friendly.

Partnership to improve accessibility for more disabled supporters

This exciting partnership with The Royal National College for the Blind and Hereford FC. The link will continue to develop to ensure that the football club becomes accessible for more fans, and in particular those with visual impairment. Future developments also include; producing club materials in braille, large print and audio versions, accessibility testing on the clubs website and social media, sight loss awareness training for club employees and making recommendations for signage and mobility routes.

The football club will also provide support and opportunities for work based learning placements. Students studying Sports Massage will have an opportunity to get involved with the first team players, whilst other roles within the club such as Customer Service, Retail and Reception can all provide future placements. An exciting project for the IT students is to scrutinise the club’s digital media platforms and provide recommendations for improvements.

‘The partnership is exciting for both parties’ said Tim Broome from The Royal National College for the Blind. ‘It is giving our students from a variety of courses an opportunity to gain real work experience in an exciting environment, it’s something that will be great on their CV or future job applications. In return, I hope we can make our local football club one of the most disability friendly clubs in the Country’.

Find out more here:www.facebook.com/RNCHereford