We left Kings Park on the Disabled Transport Minibus with 2 other wheelchair users and their carers at 9-45 am, stopped at Fleet services about 11-00 for 30 minutes. Had our first sighting of the Olympic stadium approx. 1-30. So far, so very good : )
About 2-00 after crawling around the park in heavy traffic, the Minibus attempted to turn into the W.H.U. designated road for coach drop-offs. We were told in flat terms, ‘ this road is closed, can’t make exceptions, go to the other side’. Directions given sending us to the other side of the park.
Our driver followed the less than detailed instructions, 20 – 25 minutes later turn in where instructed.Allowed through one set of barriers, stopped at the second set, ‘ who let you through? Nah you can’t come through, it’s closed, it’s matchday’. Minibus driver (and on board company ) ‘ Can’t we be let off here, then meet up at the coach park later? ‘
‘ Nah, the road’s closed, hang on I’ll have a talk to my supervisor’. Gesticulates to a comrade to come over and ‘Strike me, guv’nah ‘ ( as they say in those parts) it’s the same bloke we had spoken to over the other side of the bloomin’ park. There then followed a 10 minute, 3 sided debate. Mainly centred around, where did you get your coach directions from? The name of the road we needed and the quickest way there, one advising to go to the end of the road, turn left, the other advising turn right. One spent 5 minutes trying to locate the Olympic stadium post code on his phone. We could see the outside of the stadium but doubted ever seeing the interior!
It’s now well past 3-00, tempers are full and bladders beginning to fray. As we pass the Copper box, AGAIN, we stopped to ask a blue coated steward what to do.Turns out he works for a different company, he let us through his barricade no problem.We were set down and allowed to follow the crowd to Bubblesland.
Once there, the crowd was in full throng and awkward to negotiate with a wheelchair. At most grounds we have visited, we ask a steward for help or advice, they or a designated steward will escort us to where we need to go ( as was most definitely the case at Upton Park last season). Not yesterday, ask and be told, with a wave of the hand ‘ go down there, turn left and it’s around there, I think’. Apologies to anyone we bumped but it’s difficult navigating through a packed concourse, whilst looking for a left turn down there.Only one disabled loo as far as we know. Polite young stewards but not well versed in helping disabled fans. Finally found our space 15 minutes before kick off ( 6 hours after departure ).
Queuing for half-time refreshments, I checked my phone, a message from the Minibus driver ‘ been moved, now parked up with coaches ‘. Thinks to self ‘ where the bloomin’ heck will I find our coaches?’ Abandon queue, seek out 2 ‘coachies’, thanks Ian and Beth, found out where the coaches where and spent the rest of half-time relaying this ‘ travel news update’ to our fellow travellers.
All in all, just like our on pitch performance and result, our Olympic Park Irons Experience was the complete opposite to last season. I know the revenue and expenditure on disabled fans is very small beer compared to Corporate partners/supporters but yesterday was an utter shambles, especially for a club promoting themselves as inclusive and family friendly.
Got to stop venting my spleen now, or we’ll be here ’til Christmas. If you’ve read it all, thank you and I salute your stamina : )
Written by Table
Hard to say how angry this makes me feel. It just shows that no one there has given any thought to how fans might experience the day. Ironic given the focus on the match day experience. – Join the conversation here.
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