St.Mirren Disabled Supporters Association
The aims of the St Mirren Disabled Supporters Association (SMDSA) and our mission are a reflection of the wider network of the European Disabled supporters organisation, CAFÉ.
Aims and objectives
* To enable disabled people of differing abilities to follow St Mirren home and away
* To achieve equal accessibility for all guests to St Mirren Park.
* To increase disability awareness throughout the club and improve the lives of disabled people using the special influence of football within Scotland
* To promote non-discriminatory practice through raising awareness of special requirements of fellow supporters
* To work with the management team and board to achieve solutions that will enhance each supporter’s matchday experience
* To engage and work with supporters and owners, to improve the experience for all fans
* To involve, inform and educate partners who can help us achieve these aims
The SMDSA continues to go from strength to strength. Our membership has grown by more than a factor of ten and, together with the club, we have considerably improved the experience of attending matches at the Simple Digital Arena for those who experience difficulties.
We hold our monthly meetings on the second Monday of each month in Wallace Court Care Home, Elderslie at 7pm and any disabled supporter is welcome to join us.
A series of articles in the St Mirren match programme has raised awareness and knowledge of the range of disability issues among all St Mirren supporters and as a result the top priority for enhancing the club voted by SMiSA members was the erection of a raised platform in the main stand for our wheelchair users.
Stewards and Catering
Specially trained stewards are more sensitive to the needs of fans, and the catering staff, uniquely deliver snacks to all disabled fans to avoid carers being separated from their charges.
There is a much improved ticketing procedure and to enable fans to visit other grounds and support St Mirren, the club has an established protocol whereby our members can secure tickets enabling us to access facilities at other grounds. To further enhance this, the SMDSA undertook to survey accessibility at each of the grounds in the Championship. These guides can be found on this website and also on Euan’s Guide (CLICK HERE)
The wheelchair platform was officially opened for use on Armistice Day and we had three veterans from Erskine as our guests. Although the platform is for St Mirren supporters in wheelchairs we have, on occasion, accommodated visiting fans under special circumstances.
The criteria for securing a place on the platform rota is:
* Be a member of SMDSA
* Be a wheelchair user with a carer
* Complete the egress form to satisfy club health and safety regulations.
The rota for accessing the platform is organised on a match by match basis so that every supporter who satisfies the above and who requires a place will be allocated one fairly and without favouritism or discrimination. The code of conduct for users of the platform is exactly the same as the Family Stand.
In the past year, in addition to the opening of the wheelchair platform in the main stand, the club were awarded, by the Scottish DSA, high quality equipment which can be accessed anywhere in the stadium as provision for visually impaired supporters (the commentary is provided by UWS sports journalism students on St Mirren TV). Contact has been established with the RNIB with a view to training the students, as a matter of priority, in the specialised commentary for fans with visual impairment. The club protocol and associated form can be found on this website HERE.
A major role played by the SMDSA is to act as advocates for supporters who find their needs uncatered for. In particular the nature of disability can sometimes mean a drastic change in requirements during the course of a season. In conjunction with the club management a protocol has been put in place where a supporter whose needs change in the course of a season can be accommodated in a more appropriate part of the stadium.
Some of the achievements of the SMDSA to date:
1. As part of the ongoing provision for disabled fans, the SMDSA has argued for and been allocated by the club 16 free parking passes for disabled fans, in line with the club’s equality agenda.
2. The procedure for the arrangement of staff taking and delivering orders from the food kiosk to home and away disabled fans and carers during the first half of matches is established and is working well.
3. Formed excellent working relationship with Chief Executive, Tony Fitzpatrick. Tony and the St Mirren board in general have been very helpful in expediting everything which the SMDSA had achieved so far and have been crucial partners in the enhancement of accessibility to the Simple Digital Arena.
4. Formed successful contact with Fans Council who provide support and advocacy of our plans to the board of directors.. The SMDSA chairman has a permanent place on the Council.
5. Prepared ‘Away Fans Protocol’ with the club’s agreement. (CLICK HERE)
This approach and process is being adopted by other clubs with the support of the national body, the SDSA.
6. Established link on club website under ‘Fans’.
7. Arranged advertising of the SMDSA on the electronic scoreboard.
8. St Mirren became the first club in Scotland to be accredited by Police Scotland in being compliant with having established procedures in combating hate crime directed at disabled supporters.
We also have plans to further improve provision for disabled supporters in the near future. These include wet weather protection for wheelchair users and transport within the stadium for ambulant disabled supporters. Our Accessibility Liaison Officer is Lynn Watson, the Club secretary [email protected].
Any feedback is welcome and would be used to further enhance procedures and access to the ground. If you would like to raise any issue, or you wish to join the SMDSA, please contact us at [email protected].
John Clark (Chairman), Iain Laurie (Secretary)