League of Ireland leaders, Cork City, are being cheered on for making their home games more inclusive.
The club has a new initiative to make matches more accessible for supporters who have autism. It has launched a matchday checklist, in association with the Cork Association for Autism. The itinerary outlines a supporter’s night, from getting to the stadium to the end of the match.
Carol Walsh, fundraising co-ordinator at the Cork Association for Autism, said that changes to routine can be difficult for people who have autism, particularly if this change is an overwhelming sensory occasion, such as a football match.
By mapping out the night ahead, the checklist establishes a routine for people with autism. “The club contacted us in October, with the idea, and we were delighted to contribute to it,” Ms Walsh said.
“This checklist can help reduce anxiety for people with autism, who otherwise might find the loud noises, sights, and even new smells, from things like food stalls, unnerving. We call the list a blueprint for the night, as it covers all angles, such as getting to the game, where you sit, and how the game goes,” she said.
Designed with visual aids, to assist those with language difficulties, the checklist can make the difference between a person with autism going to a match, or avoiding such nights out.
“It’s important that people with autism are not seen as others, but people in the community. They’re our sisters and brothers, and they are supporters of our clubs. Cork City is an integral part of our city and county and it is great to see them include people in this way,” she said.
Mike Derham is a member of the board of Foras, the supporters’ trust that owns the club. He said they were aware of a number of supporters with autism, particularly children who interacted with the club mascot, Corky the Cheetah.
The checklist was inspired by the national team and the club contacted John McGuinness, marketing executive at the FAI, for help. The club then collaborated with Cork Association for Autism, who gave their advice on how best to present the checklist.
Mr Derham said the checklist is one of the ways the club engages with the community, and has already joined forces with Cork Samaritans to raise awareness about depression and is making plans to mark World Down Syndrome Day, later this month.
The Cork City Matchday Checklist can be downloaded from corkcity.ie.
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