To celebrate Level Playing Field’s Weeks of Action – aimed at promoting the rights of disabled people to enjoy the world’s greatest game to the full – Pompey’s head of inclusion Colin Farmery meets Cath Absolom from the Pompey Disabled Supporters’ Association to find out about the club’s away travel service provided by travel partner Lucketts…
The kick-off for Pompey’s game against Shrewsbury was at 3pm, but Cath’s day started more than nine hours earlier. Planning to get to the game in a wheelchair is not the most straightforward of exercises.
On a chilly December morning, Cath and her mum Jan had to be at Fratton Park for a 7.30am start – a ten-minute drive in their specially-adapted car, but long before then preparations to get there had begun.
Since the start of the season, the club’s travel partner Lucketts has been offering accessible coach travel for fans to all away fixtures.
The company have invested in several vehicles that can be specially adapted to accommodate wheelchair users.
They have also given staff specialist training to learn how to help supporters on and off comfortably via the lift and worked with the Pompey DSA to trial the system back in August.
Once the wheelchair is loaded onto the coach, it has to be secured in place, then Cath is free to enjoy the ride. She spends her time catching up with fellow fans, reading or keeping up to date with Facebook.
“Occasionally we have had a double-decker coach with ramps, such as the trip to Blackburn, instead of one of the coaches with a wheelchair lift.
“On the double-decker you are on the bottom floor while the majority of other fans are above, so the atmosphere isn’t the same, but a lot of the time is spent reading or catching up with Facebook anyway.”
Once at the New Meadow stadium it is time to disembark.
“At Shrewsbury it’s great – we are parked almost outside the stadium. We are ushered through a gate by a steward who scans our tickets and then into a lift which takes us to our high-up vantage point behind the goal. Apart from the toilets being downstairs, Shrewsbury is one of the best stadiums, especially for the view.”
Unfortunately, Cath and her mum only have a great view of a 2-0 defeat, but that doesn’t dampen her enthusiasm after heading home and getting back at gone 10pm.
“I would encourage fans to try the service if they can. Everyone has different needs, but the staff at Lucketts are helpful and I have been generally very pleased with the service. It's good disabled people have the chance to attend away games like all other fans.”
Tony Lawman, managing director of Lucketts Travel, said: “Portsmouth fans are a passionate bunch and it’s an absolute pleasure to help them get to away games in comfort and style. We’re looking forward to the forthcoming games, with even more accessible travel now available.”
If you would like to try using the Lucketts service call 01329 823755 for more information on their coach travel service. You can also discuss your ticketing needs with the club’s Disabled Liaison Officer, Allison McNeil, on 0345 646 1898
Prior to next Sunday’s home game with Oxford, the Pompey players will be warming up with Level Playing Field Weeks of Action t-shirts and a representative from the DSA will be presenting the matchball to the referee pre-match.
Level Playing Field’s Weeks of Action were established in 2005 to help highlight the positive initiatives undertaken by clubs, sporting venues and their governing bodies in partnership with disabled sports fans and disabled supporters associations (DSAs). For more information click here.