My name is Kevin Jones and I’ve been a Saints Season Ticket Holder for 38 years.
Completely out of the blue, I got diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis about 6 years ago. Always a “half-full” rather than “half-empty” kinda’ bloke, I saw this as a tremendous opportunity (excuse) to tell the wife I wanted to visit every Premiership Ground before my legs finally gave up. The timing was perfect.
With Saints in the Europa League a few years later, I got to travel to Prague and sing to the Astrological Clock when it chimed 2, 3, and 4pm. In Denmark, we got to the Stadium around 2pm and just opened a few doors and found ourselves on the pitch & sat in the dug-out. As we had our Saints tracksuits on, the Groundsman assumed we were with “the Club” and kindly showed us round and made us a cup of tea!
Arnhem Square in Holland was truly Red & White with an Ibiza-style disco with plastic balls kindly provided by the excellent Dutch Police. I also had a ticket for Milan but didn’t make the flight out….that’s a whole different story!! I didn’t fancy Israel, but spotted many friends on the TV that night too.
With the current parking restrictions around St Mary’s Stadium (SMS), I’ve genuinely found attending “away days” easier than getting to St Mary’s. My son collects me, we park close to SMS (without the home match restrictions), I use the toilet at the ground, on the coach and at the Service Stations. I munch on a picnic rather than have to queue at over-priced food outlets either in the ground or at a service station. The coach drops me (usually) right outside the ground and is waiting there for the return journey come 5pm.
So I was talking to Rob (a.k.a – @SaintsInFrance) recently and we hit on the idea of writing a small piece to assist disabled fans, like myself, navigate their way with a few hints and tips for Saints “Away Days.”
Planning your matchday trip
Obviously there are many types of disability and the only expert on your disability is you or your carer, if you have one. So in making your plans for the day there are now a number of really useful tips I can pass on to you.
Personally, I’ve found travelling on public transport a bit of a pain since being disabled. Buses will only take ONE wheelchair chair IF there’s space and IF they stop at all!
Trains are pretty much the same. Only a few stations have full accessibility like Southampton Airport Parkway and Southampton Central. Even getting on and off is a bit haphazard with “pre-booked assistance.”
I found most people I’ve spoken to tend to drive or take a coach from one of the operators calling at the stadium (plenty of other stops available). If you can do the steps, they’ll store your wheelchair in the “hold” until you need it. Fortunately, I’m still classed as “ambulant disabled” (this refers to people with a wide range of disabilities who are not regular wheelchair users. This could include, for example, people who have diabetes, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis or cancer), a term I didn’t understand until a few years ago. But I’m already exploring other “options” for a time when the legs do give up!
The only times I’ve come unstuck with this method of travel are Norwich as it’s a hell of a walk to/from the coach park and one time at Chelsea, when we parked in the middle of a small Industrial Estate but, fortunately, the coaches were right outside in the Kings Road for the return journey.
Consider using a Match Day “app”
“MatchDayApp” allows you to get organised and enjoy your whole day around a football game. Everything you need to know when following Saints—home or especially away. It covers travel, weather, finding nearby food, drink, taxis and accommodation. There’s also club and stadium information too.
For instance, in certain parts of central Birmingham you can leave your car on double-yellow lines with a Blue Badge for an entire weekend! The traffic wardens will also “keep an eye” on it too if they know you’re staying in a local hotel. True story: I parked like this when I took my wife to West Brom away for her 50th Birthday. She was delighted—she hates football but loved the convenience. The traffic warden also put a note on our car, which read: “come back soon!”
It’s really as easy as this:
In the Match Day app there are dedicated pages for Disability for each club in the entire Premiership and Football League. It’s a mine of information for most places we’ll be visiting this year!
I’ve received no money, benefit or any reward in plugging this, and other apps are available. I’m just sharing it as I find it very useful. Individual club websites are pretty useful too. Here are the Accessibility Statements for our forthcoming away matches.
Brighton & Hove Albion: 28th August 7.45pm
Crystal Palace: 1st September 3pm
Liverpool: 22nd September 3pm
Wolves: 29th September 3pm
If you have any suggestions on how we can improve this article or any handy tips to share, please get in touch in the comments section below.