Before the final hooter had sounded on the Challenge Cup Quarter Final game with Catalan Dragons, I had already started to plan the coaches we would be taking to the University of Bolton Stadium.
Well, I say plan, I can’t do much of that now so leave it to my Mum, stupid isn’t it? But I am happy doing the social media side of it to get it out to the waiting fans.
Tickets were arranged with some friends who planned to queue overnight while I silently thought it was probably a step too far for me.
It had been announced the day before that the semi-final would be held as a triple header with the other semi-finalists and the ladies final.
My silent thoughts were starting to get louder as I tried to secure a wheelchair space, I also started to think how I was going to get there, knowing the coaches were planning on staying for the three games I just knew it would be too much for me.
The week before the semi-final
A friend messaged me to tell me he wasn’t going to travel by coach as he only wanted to stay for our game, this I saw as my opportunity to attend and asked if I could go with him and his family to which he agreed.
It fitted in well as he was only staying down the road from me in his caravan so would be able to pick me up on the way through.
After toing and froing with the RFL over a wheelchair space, I rang Hull FC and secured one with a carer seat, this is interesting though as because I am a disabled adult at Hull FC, I have to pay adult prices, when I had attended Leeds Rhinos the previous week, I got a disabled concession.
As you will have noticed, Speedy I-Go was now in my possession and on Saturday morning when I got up and saw the rain teaming down it would have been easy for me to back out of it but no, I wrapped a sandwich bag around my controls and added a spare to my bag, dug out the full wheelchair waterproof that I had purchased in preparation for rain a few months ago, packed my wheelchair bag with my standard items of phone chargers, headphones etc., and my friend arrived and loaded them all into the car.
Having contacted the RFL the previous week to enquire about disabled parking I was informed it was first come first served and would be £10, as usual, I just thought it’s fine, we’ll just wing it.
After the inevitable queues to get into the stadium we followed the signs for car park A which I believed was marked as disabled. As it happened it was the wrong car park, but the steward was very helpful and let us park right in front of what I believed at the time was the entrance we needed to be in.
My friend unloaded Speedy I-Go and I climbed into my waterproof as by now it was throwing it down, securing all the elastic around my chair we set off to get undercover. I rang Mum who you would know was right around the other side of the stadium while I was sat looking at the entrance on our tickets.
All the time I was waiting for Mum I was looking for disabled access to the stadium and when she finally arrived, we were in front of the entrance on the tickets H1. So again, looking for a steward there were none to be seen and H1 was turnstiles, so riding to the right of H1 I found a gated entrance with stewards behind that told me I had to go to the disabled entrance which was in the next block.
At the next block, again no stewards to ask, block G turnstiles no disabled entrance, so while I was ranting to Instagram as by now Mum was soaked and I was riding back and forwards on an electric chair with two minutes to go to kick-off still outside the ground.
A very kind lad heard my rant and went to the turnstiles to ask where I needed to be, the stewards response was ‘if you get out of your wheelchair you can come through here then we will get the chair in’ I was utterly dumbfounded, how did he even know I could get out of it, where was he going to put me while it came back to me.
I stormed off around the corner and finally and at long last with the game already kicked off I found a steward who showed me the disabled entrance at E, E? nowhere on our tickets did it say I needed another entrance, the tickets as you can see say enter by entrance H.
My poor Mum was just about out on her feet, when we eventually got through the gates, we showed our tickets, but no bag searches were carried out and I hadn’t seen them being done anywhere else on my travels around the stadium. I needed the ladies and was directed to a disabled toilet, that looked more like a workmen’s lobby, well see for yourselves.
Eventually, I was told my space had already been taken so I would have to sit at the emergency exit and there was no room for Mum she would have to go into the stand.
Reversing up I positioned myself so I could see the game with my brolly over me on my own. There I sat for two hours until our game ended, and I went and met my friends to go home.
This day has to be my worst experience as a wheelchair user, the RFL need to hang their heads in shame at the way disabled fans where left to sit in the rain, on speaking to stewards it seems they were all volunteers, which would explain the lack of guidance available to fans.
They also informed me the stadium hadn’t been cleaned, check the toilet photos above for my evidence, but in what way ever do the organisers come to the decision to hold an event in a stadium without the correct number of stewards, but even more worrying was there were no bag checks carried out making it also a terror risk.I would also be very interested to speak with the safety officer who signed off this stadium as safe for the event to take place. Click To Tweet
This post was originally posted in July and has been updated.