Bolton Wanderers and loyal supporter Morgan Parry have a very special relationship that is unbreakable.Teenager Morgan, who has cerebral palsy, has complex needs and requires a wheelchair at all times, but this has not stopped him from watching his club all over the country, and following England to the 2014 World Cup.
Morgan and his father, Stephen, never miss a match and have been season ticket holders at the Macron Stadium for more than 10 years. They were both in attendance at the EFL’s first Disability Conference, held at Derby County’s Pride Park Stadium on Wednesday.
To build on from the EFL’s Accessible Supporters Guidance and the Every Player Counts project, the Conference provided clubs and their fans with the perfect opportunity to share good practice and raise awareness for supporters with disabilities attending football matches.
Wanderers, who are on the verge of promotion to the Sky Bet Championship, provide a wheelchair-accessible supporters coach for away matches and Morgan’s father, Stephen, explains how supportive the club have been in so many ways.
“Morgan is so passionate about Bolton Wanderers and football, we went to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 European Championships Finals in France,” said Stephen.
“Bolton are such a family-orientated club, we watch home matches from the Duke of Lancaster suite because we are indoors and behind glass. We chose to sit there because when Morgan was younger, he was sensitive to sudden and loud noises.
“We explained that to the club and they suggested the Duke of Lancaster suite, and it has worked out perfectly. The club have done so much, and for them to organise a wheelchair-accessible coach for away matches made such a huge impact, adding to everything else they have done, and we appreciate their efforts.”
Morgan and Stephen spoke in depth at the EFL Disability Conference about their football journey with a number of industry experts in attendance to show their support including Level Playing Field General Manager Ruth Hopkins, Director of the Fans Experience Company Mark Bradley and Christine Peacock, Accessibility and Adult Safeguarding Officer at Blackburn Rovers.
The Conference also provided an opportunity for many other guest speakers to share their experiences and ideas. In the afternoon, Level Playing Field and the National Register of Access Consultants both hosted interactive sessions and opportunities for all to ask questions and participate.
Aneel Javed, Specialist Advisor of Inclusion at the EFL, was pleased with the outcome of the first ever Disability Conference.
“It was a great turn out and we had a good format to the day with guest speakers and supporters with disabilities sharing their experiences when attending football matches,” Aneel explained.
“We wanted to interact with all those in attendance and that was the reason behind the activities that were in place.
“We wanted people to think about the fan first rather than their disability. When we do that, we will improve customer service and the match day experience to meet the needs for all.”