Brian and I attended this game, I was in the Wheelchair Lower and Brian in the Wheelchair Upper of the Extentia Stand, again two different viewpoints.
Sunday saw the long-awaited return to the Leeds Rhinos, newly refurbished Emerald Headingley Stadium.
I am getting better at the preparation for these visits now and earlier in the week I rang for wheelchair tickets.
On being informed the only wheelchair spaces available where in the Extentia Stand which like Brian has also alluded too is the opposite end to where all the Hull FC are. I am aware there are issues with the residents over the Western Terrace but it’s not good when you can’t be with your own fans.
The ticket price was good though as I was only charged for a disabled concession, unlike Brian who was charged full price.
Tickets arrived in the next days post and on Thursday before the game I also received an email from Leeds Rhinos full of information regarding disabled supporters. I have to say this is the first time I have received anything from any of the clubs I have assessed up to now. I replied thanking them for this.
Game day arrived and we were picked up by Acklams and made our way to the Allotments at Headingley where the coaches park. We were first in as we had decided to head straight there rather than stopping on the way.
The scooter was duly unloaded and the first hurdle was trying to get on the pavement down St Michael’s Lane and over the very narrow bridge, my friend opted for standing in the road to ensure I crossed it safely and I continued along the pavement, which no joke is about 2’ wide.
At the end of the narrow pavement I chose to ride on the edge of the road instead as there where queues starting to form at the turnstiles on St Michael’s Lane for the Ladies game.
Back on to the pavement at the top of St Michael’s Lane and this I have to say is where the rocky ride started, the pavements from St Michael’s Lane across Cardigan Road and onto the second part of St Michael’s Lane up to St Michael’s Road to the Skyrack are both narrow and in a very bad state of repair, making it somewhat of a rocky ride there and back.
After refreshments in the Skyrack, which I will add was very accessible with access in and out and a disabled toilet with a radar key, we then made our way back down to the Emerald Headingley Stadium.
The instructions on the email where to enter at Gate B, so getting to Gate B we entered via a steward who checked our tickets and then onto the necessary bag search area. I did notice there where a number of these bag searching stations which to their credit meant people where getting through very quickly.
Making our way towards the Extentia Stand, I spoke with a steward who pointed me in the direction of the wheelchair bays and onto the next steward who had a list to check off names.
Having been allocated bay 13 I backed my scooter up and Mum had a seat directly behind me.
Mum wanted to use the toilet, so I asked a steward for directions and another steward arrived to take her, which was very helpful.
Once Mum was back and seated, we realised her seat was broken so she managed to sit at another one, until those fans arrived and then she had to sit in the broken seat, which was very uncomfortable for her.
The game was about to start I got my headphones out as he noise was building to a crescendo and I will never know how they can allow that drum in the ground, even with noise cancelling headphones on it’s still a constant noise and one that someone who is sensitive noise shouldn’t have to put up with all the way through the game. I wholeheartedly accept there will be noise from singing and chanting but there really is no need for that constant drumming.
The only upside to being at the opposite end to the Hull FC fans where the team where going their way first half, which meant they would be coming our way second half. Not much of a consolation when you really want to be with your own fans, not surrounded by opposing fans, one of which insisted on shouting “break his legs” at every tackle.
As the game ended, it was time to look around to see where the best exit would be and as thankfully Hull FC won, there was a mass exodus of Leeds fans in front of us. Still feeling put out because all the Hull FC fans where celebrating at the other end of the ground we chose to make our way out.
I have to say at this point, the Leeds fans who where also leaving where very helpful in stopping people so I could get out of the stand and back out on the St Michael’s Lane. Thankfully after several years of scrambling to get through the crowds and the cars also travelling up and down St Michael’s Lane, Leeds have taken the option for St Michael’s Lane to be closed 30 minutes and 30 minutes after a game, so this helped the flow immensely.
Arriving back at the Allotments to a car that was parked over the only dropped kerb, complaining because he had a blue badge and he had got a ticket, I politely told him to go back and read his rules and the reason he had a ticket was because he was parked over the only dropped kerb at the end of the street and this was going to prove difficult for me to get back on the kerb.
I did eventually manage it and the scooter was duly stowed for the return home.
Once again massive shout out to Acklams Coaches whose drivers just go above and beyond every time, I can’t thank them enough for their support.
In Summary for accessibility at the Emerald Headingley Stadium, yes they have it covered very well, from ordering the tickets, to entrance into the stadium, I also have to question the noise of the drum as someone with noise sensitivity this is not helpful to me or I would imagine anyone on the autistic scale either.
From a personal point of view as an away fan, this is the first time I have been unable to sit with our own fans and that’s not good. They didn’t have a specific accessible steward either but the stewards I dealt with where all very helpful, the score for accessibility is 6 and a lot of that is based around the drum i’m afraid and 5 for a fans experience which is a shame really as they do seem to have tried very hard to get it right.
This was our first visit to Leeds since the £45 million revamp of the Cricket and Rugby Stadium, a revamp that claims this is now a “world class stadium”.
As disabled seats are only sold at the stadium, I rang the ground 10 days before the game. I asked to purchase a wheelchair and carer ticket. They checked I was on their system and then offered me a choice of areas. The Extentia Stand and the South Stand were on offer.
I explained I was a Hull fan and that I would like to be on the Western terrace with the Faithful. This I was informed was not permittable as the Western Terrace offered no facilities for wheelchairs. A “world class stadium”, a £45 million-pound revamp and no, I repeat no, facilities for away disabled fans to join their fellow supporters.
I decided that I was going to accept the offer of a seat in the Extentia stand as the thought of being intimidated by the hostile element that frequents the South Stand did not appeal to me one iota. I was then offered pitch level or elevated I chose elevated and was charged £24 for my tickets, reading the price list later disabled should be at concession rate of £16 in advance, perhaps the ticket office will investigate this matter.
As well as this there is no spare car parking facilities at this “world class venue” It was a warm day as we journeyed through to Leeds, picking up one of Dan’s mates at Elland Road on the way. We parked up quite easily just a few hundred yards from the stadium in St. Michael’s Lane. The path to the ground was narrow at first but once across Cardigan Road it opened out but unfortunately the old paving slabs were worn and uneven. Entry to the ground was through a side gate next to the turnstile and after having our ticket scanned, we went through the customary bag check. Programmes were on sale in various places outside the club shop so duly purchased a copy for £3, must note here it was not as good as usual editions produced by Leeds.
We now went to find out how to get to our sears in the Extentia Stand Upper, now this should have been an easy exercise but there were no access stewards anywhere in sight, so we wandered behind the stand for a while until we found a sign directing us to the lift.
This lift was in an area that lead to the executive suites and once again no steward in sight. We eventually found the floor we needed, not helped by the signs being well worn.
We exited the lift and came out onto the concourse. Here we looked for signs to direct us to our area and though it was obvious we were away supporters, I always wear my colours, but the one steward on the concourse looked straight through us. With a sarcastic message of thanks to him we moved along the stand until we found the right entrance for us.
On entry to the stand we found two stewards who checked our name off their list and despite the ticket having a number on it we were shown to a different seat that we had been allocated. The view was not too bad, but a giant handrail was obstructing the view of the near in goal area and the right-hand corner of the end we were on was not clear at all through the rails.
The toilets were accessible and operated by a radar key. It was lucky I had my own as there, once again was, no steward near them. I looked at the bar but £4 for a small burger put me off buying one.
As Dan and his mate deserted me to go and stand on the Western Terrace I was on my own until I was joined by my great friend Tony, who just happens to be a referee as well as the Chaplain to the England Rugby League side and an FC fan, and his daughter who misguidedly follows Rhinos.
The game kicked off and immediately I realised this was not a great place to be sitting as comments were flying around about Hull scum and although no comments were directed at me personally it was a very intimidating atmosphere.
All in all, it was a very exciting game to watch and even I threw off my doubts about the people around us and celebrated each Hull with gusto. This did seem to irritate the home disabled supporters around us. The full-time hooter was a welcome sound to Tony and I as we had hung on for the win. One Leeds disabled supporter did turn around and say well done but the rest evacuated the stand like there was no tomorrow.
I headed back to the lift and again I should note there was no stewards in sight, a Leeds fan directed me to the lift, and we were soon on the ground floor. I met up with a smiling Dan and his mate and we exited the ground.
The street outside was busy but most fans did respect my chair and made space for us. Back in the car we joined the traffic jam that always builds up in Cardigan Road and eventually we made it out of Leeds to the M62 and made a happy return to Grimsby.
Now I would like to say I had enjoyed my experience at this ‘world class venue’ but for me as a disabled fan looking across the pitch at over one thousand celebrating fans, I felt a little sad that I was not with them. So, for that reason and the fact that there seemed a lack of accessibility stewards I’m only going to score Emerald Headingley Stadium a ‘world class venue’ four out of ten.
Some interesting contrasts there between the two but overall we both agree it’s not good being sat with our own fans.
What has you experience of Emerald Headingley been like, please comment below and share.