The National Centre for Social Research conducted a new study. This study looked specifically at the experiences and the safety requirements of neurodiverse sports fans. It also looked at how sporting experiences can be made more enjoyable and inclusive for these individuals.
The Aims of Studying Neurodiverse Fans
This research looked specifically at certain types of neurodiversity. These included autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and Tourette’s syndrome. The field of study was quite varied due to the different characteristics and tendencies that are typical of these types of condition. This meant that the individuals included had different traits and opinions.
The research in question explored the experiences of neurodiverse individuals both before and after sporting events. The study covered all details, including buying tickets, planning trips, travelling to venues and the processes of entry and exits.
Participants generally reported that their experience was positive after going to a live event – although there are many areas that can be improved. Implementing further support is very important. Across the whole experience, suggestions for change were made. This went from improvements to ticketing and information provide, to the content of the day itself. Neurodiverse fans also gave feedback about how clubs could better interact with fans.
The research was quite small scale. There were only 24 neurodiverse participants, including the companions/carers/guardians. This helped to explore issues from the participant’s point of view. The study also did look at a range of sports, however football had the highest levels of attendance.
The Findings of Studying Needs of Neurodiverse Individuals
The summary of the feedback revealed that the following areas need improving:
Participants wanted an easier process, which would reduce the need of repeatedly explaining or justifying their access needs.
Information provisions in advance
Being able to plan improved confidence. Participants wanted more information available in advance of the events, covering: what to expect upon arrival, what to expect for transport, security checks and what would be brought into the venue, seating, and who they could speak to for help.
Staffing to Suit Neurodiverse Fans
Participants had negative encounters that stemmed from staff having a lack of understanding. They felt that stewards should receive training to be more aware of neurodiverse fans to as to better support them. Where participants did receive support from disability access or similar, they had a generally positive experience.
The locations had narrow concourses and gangways or closely packed seating. Being able to choose appropriate seating helped with this issue. Others provided support to get around the venue to neurodiverse fans. They suggested wider, more spacious routes. They also recommended signage improvement.
Participants were supportive of the provision of sensory rooms for neurodiverse children and for those with more complex needs. There were limitations for this. They approved of having more quiet spaces closes to seating areas that could be accessed without prior booking and used as a safe space to moderate stress.
Many of the factors that improved the experience made participants feel safer. These included accessible seating, accessible venue design and support from family and friends. They also felt secure with a strong presence of trustworthy staff who understood their needs.
Engagement from venues
Participants wanted more communication from clubs and venues. They approved the idea of a ‘neurodiversity champion’ who could understand the requirements of the neurodiverse supporter base. They also felt that clubs could do more to raise awareness with other spectators.
Participants were also happy that the research was being conducted. They saw it as an opportunity to develop and improve the standards and requirements that they have. There is a growing interest in this area, and many venues are taking steps to improve provisions. Level Playing Field will integrate key findings into their new Accessible Stadia Guide which will be published at the end of 2022.
The Chair of Level Playing Field said: ‘We are delighted to have a research project such as this take place. The findings of this research project will allow progress to be made in enhancing access and inclusion for neurodiverse fans. We are fully aware that more still needs to be done, but hope that this research will lead to a large scale research project in future and, of course, greater access and inclusion at sports stadia.’More News