Wrexham v Woking: Britain’s First Autism-Friendly Game

Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.

autism_wishes

I’ve always been proud to support Wrexham, although I suppose that’s the default position for fans for their local town’s side. However, the WST’s takeover of the club gives me more reason to feel pride. The principle of putting something back into the community is now engrained into the club. Tomorrow’s match will be an example of that.

The game against Woking will be the first autism-friendly game staged in Britain. The club has been working with Autism Wishes to organise the experience, and it’s just one example of how we’re doing worthwhile things for local people.

Autism Wishes’ Facebook page shows just what terrific work they do, and their work with the Disabled Supporters Association is an exemplary example of how the club can reach out to the community to do excellent work.

Some of the kids came to The Racecourse to familiarise themselves with the stadium beforehand last Wednesday and the enthusiasm they’ll bring to a chilly old ground in the middle of October will illustrate the value of the exercise: they’re going to have a cracking time, hopefully aided by a performance from the team!

And that’s what a football club is all about. The shared experience of going to the game is a powerful one. It can develop you as a person: I know my teenage years spent standing on an empty Kop with my mates, watching some dire football throughout the 1980s did that for me. We developed a common bond through suffering: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

A football club should open its doors and offer fans not just a chance to buy into the dream of success, which nobody can guarantee, but to participate in something which can help you develop as a person.

The excellent work of the Racecourse Foundation looks to do that, and the WST published a report last week into its community work which draws attention to the many ways we connect with the region.

I sometimes feel that perhaps we could be a little more forward in publicising the good work we do. Why not ensure that the wider community is aware of that and increase its goodwill towards us?

But in a way the lack of profile for this arm of the club’s work justifies it. We’re at the heart of the community because we want to be, not because we’ll profit from it.

There will always be fans who purely connect with the club on one level, and follow Wrexham only for the matches. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that: it’s what the vast majority of fans around the world do, of course! But I love the fact that there’s another aspect to Wrexham F.C. It makes me feel good to know that my club can reach out into the community and look to touch people’s lives beyond how last weekend’s result made them feel. Indeed, I’m proud to say that initiatives like tomorrow’s are now a part of Wrexham’s raison d’ être.

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