Southampton Football Club is this week marking the anniversary of its Saints Disabled Supporters’ Association (SDSA), a self-funded, not-for-profit organisation run by volunteers in collaboration with the football club and the Saints Foundation to help achieve member and community goals.
Set up in 2010 and spearheaded by a committee of five loyal Saints fans with disabilities to give a voice to disabled fans, the SDSA was one of football’s first Disabled Supporters’ Associations.
Unable to celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2020 due to the pandemic, Southampton FC will be marking the occasion during its game against Watford on Sunday 13th March, featuring information about the association in their programme, a bespoke video display in the stadium and broadcasting interviews with various members of the group at half-time.
The SDSA has played a pivotal role in transforming the matchday experience for disabled fans and continues to support the disabled community through the provision of match day tickets for disabled fans who would otherwise not be able to attend games, open days, and sponsorship to several local organisations. The SDSA also provides kit donations to youth and pan-disability football teams including Solent University’s Team Solent Boccia.
Discussing the milestone, Kelly Lewis Head of Customer Relations and Fan Experience at Southampton FC, said: “We are delighted to be celebrating this momentous anniversary of the Saints Disabled Supporters’ Association. The work our members have achieved has been crucial in creating a safe and inclusive match-day environment for our disabled fans.
"We know that football clubs still have a way to go, but together with the SDSA, we are committed to improving the support available. There are some really exciting things to come in the near future and we will continue to work hard at improving our facilities year-on-year and making football more accessible for players and fans alike.”
Andy Mather, Chair for the Saints Disabled Supporters’ Association added, “We are extremely proud to be celebrating our 10-year anniversary, even if it is a little late due to covid. Over the last 11 seasons we have come a long way and we’d like to take this moment to say a huge thank you to all our supporters, members, and volunteers as without your dedication this organisation wouldn’t be possible.
"We’d also like to say an even bigger thank you to Southampton Football Club for allowing us to set up this important group and for supporting us. The SDSA is committed to see the provision of services and facilities for disabled and non-disabled fans at the stadium to be ‘best in class’ and we strive to work with the club to achieve this. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but we are really excited for what the future holds.”
The club is also proud to be supporting the Level Playing Field Weeks of Action campaign in celebration of access and inclusion in the world of sport. As part of the campaign, the club provides an audio description service, whereby blind or partially sighted supporters can utilise the club’s free-of-charge audio description service on matchdays, with trained commentators delivering all the key moments and colour of the full 90 minutes. It also has a dedicated Sensory Room, devoted to providing a suitable and calming environment for fans with sensory differences to enjoy all the drama and action of the games.
To further ensure a safe and inclusive experience, the club offers SFC Access wristbands to help supporters with hidden disabilities and ensure they have the most positive match-day experience possible.
The Saints Disabled Supporters’ Association is always appreciative of volunteers or if you are interested in joining drop a line to Paul Lucas at [email protected].
As part of Southampton FC's sustainability strategy, The Halo Effect, our fans are at the heart of everything we do. Find out how we are committed to treating our fans fairly and equally, as part of our Fan Responsibility, here.