The cauldron of Premier League football is improving its offer to fans who have autism, with Watford FC leading a pioneering initiative.
The Mirror reported on the progress of the League’s first sensory room, opened by the club to help autistic young fans come to terms with the commotion of football.
The Mirror reported that James Dwight, an IT support technician for a major high street bank in Milton Keynes, was told by his autistic son Jacob that he no longer wanted to go to the football.
James heard about the innovative addition at Watford’s Vicarage Road stadium and decided to investigate the bubble tube, bean bags, fibre optic features and oasis of calm. It was right up his son’s street.
James told The Mirror: “Some kids really suffer with the noise during a game, and the sensory room gives them a quiet space in a near-soundproof cocoon. It makes the whole day easier for parents and it’s a brilliant facility which the club could easily have used as an executive box for commercial revenue.
“Jacob is 12 now. He was eight or nine before we started going to Watford matches regularly, but there were games when we had to leave early, especially if there was a noisy away contingent next to us in the family section of the Vicarage Road end.”
The Sensory Room proved an ideal solution – quiet enough to mitigate anxiety and uncertainty, but still with a VIP view of the pitch through the one-way privacy windows. And after a spell of transition, rebuilding Jacob’s confidence in the sights, sounds and mass movement of a big game, the family migrated back to the main public area of the stadium.
James added: “Football has really helped Jacob. I can see he is more relaxed and the sensory room has taken much of the stress out of going to games.”
The Mirror reported that the cost of the sensory room was just £17,000 – a fraction of the weekly wage of some Premier League players! More than 40 families have used it so far
Arsenal, Liverpool and Southampton are said to be following Watford’s lead, while Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organisers sent a delegation to examine the blueprint.