Welcoming fans to Watford FC and ensuring that everyone has the best possible visitor experience is part of the day job for Dave Messenger, Supporter Liaison & Disability Access Officer at the Football Club. Visit Watford recently had the opportunity to speak with a Watford family who have benefitted from such an experience.

Nicky Williams and her son Jenson, aged 6, attended the Watford v Chelsea match in October. Jenson, who has Autism and is non-verbal, is an enthusiastic football fan and enjoys attending matches, though he does not feel comfortable and may become anxious in sitting in large noisy stands. In order to ensure that Jenson could attend the match and gain maximum enjoyment from his experience, Dave arranged for him and Nicky to use the Watford FC Sensory Room overlooking the pitch at the ground which has been specifically designed to meet the requirements of children diagnosed with Autism. This room features lower levels of natural daylight, sensory room facilities for children to enjoy whilst watching the football and a greater amount of open spaces so children do not feel crowded or uncomfortable. It is staffed by trained special needs professionals who are constantly on hand to support families attending the game. Harry the Hornet, the Club’s vibrant mascot, also visited the children at half-time to further brighten their afternoon.

Nicky was delighted in being able to bring Jenson to the match and was highly impressed with the attention to detail and dedication offered by Dave and the Club. “It gives me comfort knowing we can do something most people take for granted, feeling relaxed around other families, knowing my son is in a safe environment where no one judges his behaviour, needs or reactions, he’s just a child doing his thing and enjoying doing so…anything goes and that’s just fine. If he’s happy, I’m happy. Game on! Thank you Watford Football Club.”

As a result of their positive experience and the focus which the Club pays to its audiences, both Nicky and Jenson are keen to attend future matches at Watford and become more involved in the Junior Hornets membership facility on offer.

Visit Watford is grateful for the support of Watford FC and Nicky Williams in creating this case study and wishes much enjoyment to all families using the Sensory Room for the remainder of the season. Good luck to the Hornets!

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