Letters From Club Cause Panic Amongst Newcastle United’s Disabled Fans
I am shaking with anger as I type this and I have asked the good people at The Mag to keep my identity secret just in case there were repercussions for the person that I’m writing on behalf of.
I’m very lucky as my ‘job’ entails helping a very special person live life to the full despite so many obstacles being put in her way.
All well and good so far but let me explain.
The person I accompany to the matches is severely disabled, I go to every match as it it would be impossible for this supporter to do so alone and she needs somebody with them at all times in such an environment.
This week I turned up for work and I found her crying her eyes out, having had a letter from Newcastle United.
A covering letter and quite a complex form had arrived which wasn’t all that clear, especially to many of the people who would have received them.
Due to her disability, the lady I accompany pays 50% of the ticket price and is allocated a free ticket for her helper.
The letter which put her in such a state was asking for proof of her disability, with supporting evidence from her doctor etc. She’d got herself in such a state that when trying to understand what the club were saying/asking, she’d come to the conclusion that it meant she would no longer be able to go and see her beloved Newcastle United. Remember, people such as this lady have such a struggle in their lives and for many, the football club takes on extraordinary importance/significance. It isn’t just ‘another thing’ that she enjoys doing in her social life, for her and many others it is an all consuming passion and would leave a massive void if it wasn’t there.
As it happens, after I’d calmed her down and read the letter carefully myself, I understand she does still meet the criteria and will continue to be able to go to the matches and pay half price for her seat and have her essential helper. That is of course if she gets the written support of her doctor and fills in the form correctly etc etc
We understand that the club shouldn’t allocate such places to just anybody but the vast majority of those in this lady’s position are very well known to staff at the club having gone to matches for countless years.
Yes the club may have wanted to have a general catch-up but common sense would have dictated that most disabled fans in such positions would clearly meet the criteria without having to go and see your doctor and get written proof. By the very nature of their disability these are some of the most vulnerable people in our society and sending out such letters is completely insensitive. Sadly, some disabled fans may now be missing at the start of next season due to misunderstanding this letter and/or not having the support system that the lady I know, has got.
The club even has a recognised disabled supporters organisation – NUDSA (Newcastle United Disabled Supporters Association). By working with NUDSA the club could have sensitively carried out this exercise which would have minimised upset for some of the club’s loyalist and most passionate supporters, whilst at the same time finding out if indeed some fans didn’t meet the criteria.
The club should hang their heads in shame and write to all disabled fans to apologise for this gaffe and use a different solution to achieve what they intended.
Yes we all understand football is a business these days (we are told often enough!!) but a football club without its supporters is an empty vessel.
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