For a lot of football fans, nothing beats the excitement of going to watch your team play at their home stadium. There’s the hustle and bustle of the crowds outside the stadium gates. The electric atmosphere inside the stadium as familiar chants ring out. And the ecstatic celebrations when a goal is scored.
Many of us take these experiences for granted but not everyone is able to enjoy live sport the same way.
The atmosphere of a live sporting event can be overwhelming for some people with sensory conditions, like autism.
Without knowing it, we are all subconsciously trying to ‘make sense’ of our environment. Through ‘sensory processing’ our brains take in information from the smells, sights, sounds, tastes and movements that we experience – and then it uses this to help us interact with what is going on around us.
For many people that are diagnosed with conditions such as autism or Down’s syndrome, their sensory processing systems haven’t fully developed. This means that situations that involve loud noises, busy crowds and fast paced movement (like a football match) can be very overwhelming.
For the families of children who are managing sensory processing issues, it is a common strategy to avoid situations that are likely to over stimulate their child’s senses. This often means that families miss out on enjoying live sport together.
Luckily, there is support in the form of charities like Menphys.
Menphys is a Leicester based charity that helps disabled children live ordinary lives.
Working in the community across Leicestershire for over 50 years, Menphys are driven by the belief that every child has the equal right to fully take part in their community and have the same life choices – whatever their needs may be.
They provide a variety of support services, including activity clubs, after school clubs and individual support for children with disabilities and their families.
Menphys also help to co-ordinate many family fun days out, bringing together a supportive network of families with similar experiences.
Working with Menphys, we planned for a group of Leicester children with sensory issues to enjoy a day at the football
When Menphys explained to us how they help disabled children and their families, we were keen to do something to help.
We suggested to the Menphys team that we could provide six tickets to our corporate box at King Power stadium, to watch Leicester City vs Brentford. This would enable three children with sensory issues and their parents to experience a live game of football from the safety and comfort of an enclosed environment.
The team at Menphys loved the idea, and the planning and invitations for “My First Football Match” got underway.
Preparation was key
Planning the day required careful thought and attention. The setup of our corporate box and the arrangements for the day needed to accommodate each child’s individual diagnosis.
Menphys were brilliant at providing a wealth of information on needs of each of the children attending, that allowed us to prepare every last detail. The conditions the event needed to prepare for included Autism, ADHD, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Developmental Trauma Disorder, Sensory Integration Disorder and Hypermobility Disorder.
We have to give huge credit to the Hospitality Team at Leicester City Football Club. They worked tirelessly with us to make sure everything was set up for the children to have the best day possible – providing Leicester City goodie bags, and even setting things up for a special visit from Filbert Fox.
Everything Branded (the promotional merchandise arm of Everything Global) helped us put the finishing touches to things, with some unique colouring packs, sensory toys, teddies and games.
Match day review: Pre-match photos
The families arrived at a sunny King Power stadium well in advance of the fans turning up and made their way up to the box.
Everyone enjoyed a photo opportunity with the club’s mascot, Filbert Fox, and food and drinks were served as we all got to know one another.
Crucially, we made sure that everything went at a relaxed pace for the children whilst the stadium was still nice and quiet.
As the stands started to fill and as the noise levels increased, we were able to close the balcony doors of our box to soundproof the room. This was really useful for the guests who were finding the atmosphere challenging.
Match day review: A nervous first 45 minutes
As the game kicked off, the television inside our box was helpful for the children. They were able to view the live game in a uniquely calm setting, with the option to go outside as and when they felt comfortable doing so.
Some of the children chose to stay in the comfort of the box for the first half.
But one brave guest ventured out onto the balcony just in time to capture Leicester’s second goal in the 33rd minute on their phone! Talk about great timing.
Match day review: A more confident second half
It was wonderful to see everyone outside enjoying the game in the second half.
The guests that were struggling with sensory overload issues in the first half had worked at their own pace, and felt confident enough to venture out and watch the second half of the game in the open air.
There were high-fives all around when the final whistle went, and Leicester secured their 2-1 victory.
“My First Football Match” was a success for everyone.
It was an emotional experience for all involved
There were a lot of proud people on that balcony when everyone was outside together in the second half. It was clear to see how much it meant to the children, but also to the parents.
It really hit home the great work that Menphys do in the community, and that watching live sport as a family should be accessible to all.
Does your charity need support?
Everything Community manages the social responsibility and community support initiatives of the Everything Global group.
If you’re a registered charity and want to talk about how we can potentially work together, we’d love to hear from you at email@example.com
We are keen on helping all charities and community causes where we can, but we prioritise requests from smaller charities and those that are local to the Leicester area.
More about Menphys
“My First Football Match” was a first for Everything Community. But it was business as usual for Menphys.
Menphys have been helping disabled children and their families in the Leicester area for over 50 years, driven by their mission to ensure that every child has the equal right to fully engage in their community and have the same life choices – whatever their needs may be.
To find out more about the great work that they do, visit https://menphys.org.uk/