The start of every football season brings new players, new kit and new advertising campaigns.
The pick of the bunch by a distance this year is Paddy Power’s “You beauty!” film, which highlights the challenges facing a disabled fan taking in an away game.
That alone is reason enough to welcome the advert. It reminds the wider public, and those involved in the game, that disabled people like to go to football and must be accommodated.
We see the subject of the film complain that “travelling to the match is a chore”, and he’s right. In fact, it can be hard work for anyone, but particularly for someone who needs assistance to get from a packed train onto a busy platform. And a crowd is not a great place to be anyway when you’re in a wheelchair. Paddy Power depicts the situation very well with its footage of the wide backsides of XXL-plus football fans!
The sequence with the steward raises an interesting point, as does the scene outside the “dis-a-a-a-a-bled cubicle.
The steward obviously means well but doesn’t understand that just because someone is in a wheelchair doesn’t mean they need help. It’s like helping someone who is visually impaired to cross the road whether they want to or not!
As for the loo, in reality, non-disabled people are not forbidden from using accessible loos. It’s just common sense for them to leave the accessible loos for the people who really need them, particularly in such a busy environment.
A more important point not explored by the film but seized upon by many people via social media is the status of the fan leaving the cubicle. The context makes it clear that he is oblivious to the needs of disabled supporters, and the implication is that he is not disabled. However, many people have impairments which may not be obvious to the eye. Such hidden impairments may mean they need the facilities provided by an accessible loo, and they should receive the consideration which comes with that.
We have a lot of experience of working at sport and entertainment venues, and it is clear that attitudes towards disabled fans and facilities at a big event are improving. But a campaign like this can only reinforce the fact that we’re all on the same side.