Monthly Archives: June 2016

DAY 4 THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY IN ST ETIENNE

The good was the fabulous help we received on the short train journey between Lyons and St Etienne plus to/from the stadium. A group including the city authority and the St Etienne DSA had organised 4 accessible mini buses to shuttle disabled fans back and forth. At both ends they had people to meet you and offer whatever help you needed. I met Corinne from the DSA who hadn’t seen for nearly 6 years when last in St Etienne. When we arrived back at the railway station there were huge queues however the station staff were on the look out for any wheelchair users and guided us through the crowds straight onto the train.

The bad was the accessible facilities at the stadium which were a disgrace. Wheelchair fans from both countries playing and neutrals would have spent a lot of hard earned money getting to the game and deserved much better. Our entry gate was below the tier where our tickets were for but we had to walk to the other end of the stadium as there was only one lift which meant a long walk back again along the concourse to our seats. It  looked like they had removed a few seats from the back row to create wheelchair spaces  and the view when people stood was non-existent. Incredibly on our tier there were no toilets so a wheelchair user had to trail along to the lift to get to the upper tier or ground level to find a toilet. As for the accessible toilets they were shocking consisting of a sink and a toilet bowl (which when we tried to use was blocked!)

The ugly of course was the flares thrown onto the pitch by a few Croatian fans protesting about a Croatian FA policy. The red shirted volunteer and the Croatian player could have been more seriously injured when one went off near them on the pitch. Croatians fans tried to point out the culprits however the riot police just stood and watched so a fight started. Croatian fans we spoke to were very unhappy with the small group who spoiled things and the police for not doing anything at all.

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DAY 3 LYONS AND IT’S LATE

The update was late as well as it being a late night celebrating with the Northern Ireland fans! The train journey from Marseilles to Lyon was pretty straight forward and we arrived to find our accommodation was a studio flat which was fully accessible. It’s a new stadium in Lyons some distance from the town centre however a direct tram service which is fully accessible runs to the stadium. This time wheelchair users could see if people in front stood up and there were PA seats next to all the spaces.Only problem was the barrier was a little too high for Allan to see properly.

It was a great night for Northern Ireland and we joined their fans for the second half where we met good friends Aubrey Bingham and his wife Kerry.

After the game all disabled fans were well looked after by the stewards and were given priority boarding onto the trams back to the city centre

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DAY 2 MARSEILLES

Thanks to Yoola we are in the Grand Tonic Hotel which is fully accessible. The size of the bedroom for moving a wheelchair around is perfect and the accessible bathroom is state of the art. Great view from the window onto one of the fan zones which is currently mobbed (noon) with Albanian fans.It was a pleasure to mix with the French and Albanians supporters during the day. There was no animosity or trouble just good humoured singing and banter. Buses and the metro are not accessible in Marseilles but the trams are but they don’t run near the stadium so a taxi it was! From the drop off point at the stadium the walk we had to make was ridiculous to our entrance point. Getting into the stadium was easy and the stewards were helpful. Same old story at the viewing area, poor sightlines when people stood, barrier in the way and no adjacent PA seats (apart from Allan’s which Keith  grabbed right away). The atmosphere was electric and even Willie Collum had a decent game. When leaving the stadium we are asked to walk up a very steep slope and down another slope further on when it was clear there were other routes. Keith said “non” and other wheelchair users gathered round while he pressed the point. Pressure told and a locked gate was opened to allow us all out a quicker and flatter route. Next problem was getting a taxi back to the hotel. There was a huge queue however a taxi driver suggested we just go to the front and the steward organising the queue said “oui”. We were in the next one but Keith did the honourable thing and shouted “deux personnes avec moi pour le centre” and a man and his son (St Etienne supporters) understanding Keith’s fluent French jumped in.

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HELLO FROM MARSEILLES DAY 1 REPORT

And what a day it was!! First leg of the journey was Easyjet flight from Edinburgh to Charles De Gaulle which due to industrial action in France was cancelled! This meant we would miss our train connection in Paris to Marseilles and all sorts of problems. We took a gamble and switched to a Spanish Airline but they flew to Orly not Charles De Gaulle. Hiccup at Edinburgh as they could not find the sedan chair to get Allan on to the plane and in Orly more delay, which upset the pilot, as they forgot to bring the lift vehicle to the plane.

Before leaving Edinburgh we telephoned Yoola, an agency based in Paris who arrange accessible travel to see what they could do to help us as they had made all our hotel and train reservations. This is were the owner of the company, Malik Padsi, was brilliant. He arranged for an accessible taxi to meet us at Orly and he also drove to the airport to give the driver new train tickets as by now they had found out another train left Gard de Lyons at 820pm. We arrived at the station at 8pm where Malik was waiting for us to make sure all was ok on a very busy train full of French and Albanian football fans. The station staff were very helpful in getting Allan on to the train and with it being such a rush Malik was only able to book two standard seats in different coaches and not a wheelchair space for Allan. However with his intervention we were given a wheelchair space and a seat in a first class coach! We finally arrived in Marseilles at midnight with a very helpful taxi driver taking us to our hotel and you can see the view from our room in the picture!

OFF THE BALL INCIDENT AT AGM!!

More of a humorous 45 minutes than an incident. The S.D.S.A. AGM was held at Hampden Park on Saturday 28th 2016 with the formal part of the meeting interrupted for a surprise Q & A session with the stars from Off The Ball, Tam Cowan and Stuart Cosgrove. Both guys have actively supported our cause for some time through their radio show and it was great to have them along to Hampden. The picture was taken as Stuart on the right was telling us about the way media works.