Wasps’ new pitch-facing sensory room having a big impact
Wasps are a club that has always prided themselves on their community engagement, and this year has been no different.
The six-time Gallagher Premiership Rugby Champions have this season become the first side to install a pitch-facing sensory room in their stadium, designed to enable fans with disabilities to watch the action in a safe and comfortable environment.
Transforming two of their hospitality boxes at the Ricoh Arena, the space provides seats in the main stand and a viewing room on top of the sensory section itself, which boasts bubble tubes and fibre-optics.
And, as Wasps’ Community Development Officer Jordan Young explains, it’s a development that completely changes the game for fans previously struggling to attend matches.
“The obvious benefit is for kids, because they can come to the game and watch the rugby,” he said.
“But the secondary benefit is that the parents can come and enjoy the game knowing that their kids are safe and catered for, and that as a family they can enjoy coming to watch Wasps play.
“Particularly the sensory aspects of the room offer a calming element and particularly in an environment such as a match-day at the Ricoh, which can be large crowds, loud noises, bright lights, all sorts of stuff that could cause a sensory overload and a challenge for the individual or their family.
“Basically, they can access as much or as little as they want of that, but it’s allowing people to come to the game who may never have felt confident in coming.”
Whilst it was an idea that had been in the planning stage for a few years, it was Wasps fan Neil Boon whose suggestion prompted its installation.
Boon’s two sons, both of whom have autism, had been unable to watch a full rugby match from the stands due to the Ricoh’s boisterous atmosphere.
And, three home games into the campaign, the room has so far proved a resounding success, for the Boon family and others alike.
“It’s been amazing,” Young continued. “We’ve had people just love things from the smallest details – like they didn’t have to go up so many stairs.
“There were guys who didn’t manage to sit for more than ten minutes in the main stand itself and are now sitting for half a game, up to a full game.
“We had a young lad – who’s a twin, and one of them is quite comfortable and confident and the other is extremely shy and never really wanted to come to the Ricoh – and probably for the first time him, his brother and his mum could come and enjoy a game.”
Although it is still early days for the sensory room, Young already believes that other Gallagher Premiership Rugby clubs should follow suit.
And there is one standout story that certainly supports his recommendation.
“We had two different families in the room, and by the time the game had finished they had added each other on Facebook and were arranging to meet up outside of the rugby, so there’s that social connection that we never anticipated until we saw it,” he added.
“We’ve had some really good feedback – pretty much every parent wants to book it again already.
“I think it’s an amazing facility to have at your club that just lets more people come to the game.
“We’re trying to spread the message that the people who can come do come but the people who can’t come, we need to do whatever we can to help them come to games.”