Wembley pioneer steps for dementia fans


Wembley Stadium dementia friendly Image: Coliseum GSVA

Wembley is the first national stadium in the United Kingdom to become dementia-friendly as part of a scheme to encourage all sports grounds to do the same.

‘The Guardian’ stated that changes include training stewards on dementia awareness, an overhaul of the Wembley Stadium’s website to make it more accessible and expanding the stadium’s chaperone service to include people with no-visible disabilities and not only wheelchair users.

The 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium is a football stadium in Wembley, London (UK). It opened in 2007 on the site of the original Wembley Stadium, which was demolished from 2002 to 2003. The stadium hosts major football matches including home matches of the England national football team and the Football Association (FA) Cup final.

‘The Guardian’ further stated that the moves came after a review of the stadium involving people affected by dementia who provided feedback on their matchday experiences.

But the national stadium has not yet gone as far pioneering dementia-friendly changes made at the Championship club Swansea City A.F.C. home – the 21,088-capacity Swansea.com Stadium in Plasmarl, Wales (UK). Its stadium provides ear defenders for those with dementia who become overwhelmed by noise. It also has an inclusion room to provide a quiet space for watching games, and the first and last steps on stairs in the stands are painted red to help those with perception problems.

Liam Boylan, Director of Wembley Stadium, said the changes were “the first steps in ensuring that those affected by dementia are not excluded from the beautiful game.”

The changes at Swansea and Wembley are part of a Football Association (FA)-backed initiative by the Alzheimer’s Society to try to ensure all football grounds are welcoming to people with dementia.

London (UK)-based the Football Association (FA) is the governing body of association football in England and the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. Formed in 1863, it is the oldest football association in the world and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the amateur and professional game in its territory.

The charity says 900,000 people in the United Kingdom are living with dementia, a figure that is predicted to reach one million by 2025. It points out that those with dementia often find matchdays too disorienting and overwhelming, because of noise levels, the size of the venues and their inability to effectively communicate.

The Alzheimer’s Society has produced a guide for dementia-friendly sports clubs and venues that it wants to see widely adopted.

Commented Kate Lee, the charity’s Chief Executive, “We want to see all sports showing their commitment to giving fans with dementia a smooth journey from sofa to stands.”

She said she hoped the guidance “helps foster a more inclusive, accessible and welcoming environment for sport fans with dementia, so they can continue to be at the heart of the action.”

Catherine Thomas, Swansea City’s Head of Hospitality, Events and Fan Engagement, said the club had set up a working group of fans affected by dementia who informed the changes it has made.

She added, “We want to make the club and stadium as dementia- friendly as possible.”

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