The SPFL Trust has launched a ground-breaking scheme to make football more accessible to supporters in Scotland, it was revealed today (Monday 2 March 2020).

Key headlines:

  • Brand new A-Team project launches
  • Mobile sensory unit available for all SPFL clubs to use for free
  • Noisy environment can make it difficult for families to attend matches
  • Over 700,000 people affected by autism in the UK

For many families, the A-Team project will enable them to attend SPFL matches for the first time.

Across the UK, autism affects over 700,000 people. It is a much-misunderstood condition, which manifests itself in many different ways including sensory difficulties.

Sensory difficulties (sometimes referred to as ‘sensory overload’) can make certain situations incredibly stressful for both the person with autism and their family or friends. This is magnified in a football environment, which is understandably noisy, intense, and full of colour.

The SPFL Trust’s new mobile sensory unit will enable any club which has a private indoor space with a view of the pitch the opportunity to welcome supporters with autism or other sensory difficulties in a safe way.

Once set up the room will have interactive bubble columns, multi-coloured fibre optic cables, solar projector, sound and light panel, fibre optic carpet, glitter ball, and an aroma unit.

To help families, the A-Team kit will be set up several days before any match at which it is to be used. They will be invited to see the set up for themselves, meet staff, access entry and exit routes, and generally plan so they can be in control of the environment. Everything will be geared towards making families more comfortable about attending an SPFL match.

Clubs will be able to loan the kit after relevant staff have completed Autism Awareness Training, which will be delivered by the National Autistic Society.

The project has been generously co-funded by Variety Scotland, the children’s charity, with support from the SPFL and Corra Foundation.

A-Team will be used for the first time on 7 March when Hearts entertain Motherwell at Tynecastle.

SPFL Trust Chief Executive Nicky Reid comments: “We are happy to be able to launch A-Team as we strive to make SPFL football more accessible. There are supporters who would like to be able to take their someone with autism to a match, and there are many clubs who would be delighted to welcome them. It’s been about finding an effective way to deliver this across the SPFL.

“We’ve seen one or two clubs develop really fantastic autism-friendly spaces in their stadia, but the reality is that it is a really expensive process. Therefore, this is a really innovative way to address the need in an effective way.”

National Autistic Society Scotland have been a key part in building this project.

“We are delighted to have worked with the SPFL Trust on their A-Team project to help make Scottish football more autism-friendly,” director Nick Ward explained.

“We know that 44% of autistic people and families in Scotland sometimes don’t go out because they’re worried about how people will react to their autism. We also know that small changes such as autism awareness training for staff, can make a big difference.

“The SPFL Trust’s new mobile sensory unit makes Scottish football more accessible to autistic supporters and their families, and allows them to enjoy a thrilling match-day experience that many of us take for granted.”

SPFL Trust Chief Executive Neil Doncaster also welcomed the launch of A-Team.  “Any initiative that helps to remove barriers preventing fans attending a football match is greatly welcomed,” he said.

“As Scotland’s national sport, football should be accessible to all and the introduction of temporary, autism-friendly spaces at grounds up and down the country will make a real difference in helping autistic supporters enjoy a positive football experience.”

Andrew Horne MBE, Appeals Officer at Variety Scotland, The Children’s Charity says: “Variety Scotland, The Children’s Charity are delighted to be involved in this very worthwhile project. Variety Scotland is about increasing positive experiences for children throughout Scotland who are sick, disabled or disadvantaged. This we can achieve with the help of sponsors, on this occasion SP Energy Networks.”

Connie Williamson, Head of Grants at Corra Foundation added: “This is an exciting project which will make a big difference to many families in Scotland. Corra Foundation is pleased to have played a small part in helping to fund training for staff so that they can support people to use the new mobile sensory unit.”

 Click here to go to SPFL Trust website