A while ago I got invited to St James’ Park by Newcastle United following a query to view the football clubs facilities. The timing was brilliant too as I had an appointment over in Newcastle anyway and I also like Newcastle as it’s a smashing place smashing place and thought I might as well make a day of it.
I made the journey by train and then walked to the stadium which isn’t far, but wasn’t easy as it was so hilly. It was really busy there too, as the late Sir Bobby Robson had just passed away and I was fairly overwhelmed with the amount of people going to the stadium to pay their respects.
When I got there I was amazed by the size of the stadium even though I’d seen it on TV plenty of times but didn’t really comprehend how huge this stadium is as I’m used to fairly small ones when watching Carlisle United. I got to the main reception to meet up with the disabled liaison officer Dave Pattison who as soon I met him made me feel welcome and took me up to his office up in the heavens of this huge stadium.
We discussed mainly about the difficulties I have following football and what updates have been made to the stadium. The part I was looking forward to was the tour of the stadium and Mr Pattison first took me up to the highest tier of the stadium in a lift as it would have been nearly 175 steps to the top for me otherwise. It’s so high that on a clear day from you could see the North sea but he showed me special seats for the ambulant and wheelchair spaces. There wereso banisters at this height so I could manage, as that’s what I struggle with mainly. Also all the refreshment bars were at a low level which I have found isn’t always the case, one down side was they had a bookmakers booth which was a high counter but as I am not a gambler it’s a bonus in my book (lol)! Dave mentioned the difficulties with managing the lifts as there have been supporters abusing this privilege, they have however implemented a card system for the disabled supporters and also stewards are used at these lifts so this issue has been resolved.
I was then taken to the executive boxes which each had a wheel chair space and they each had individual bars and bar staff which was impressive from my point of view. I was then shown one of the many disabled toilets in the stadium and he conceded that there were some flaws in the design as the toilets doors had door handles which for certain people would have difficulty using, also the sink was really close to the loos and the tap handles were smaller than they should be as most in disabled loos tend to be bigger. It impressed me that Dave was so open with things he felt or believed needed improving and never hid anything.
He even showed me the corporate facilities in the stadium which were huge however one issue with this was the loos were at the stage level. So there was a lift which would have been good apart from the fact it was small and id imagine certain wheelchairs could not fit in it there was also a hearing loop throughout this bar area.
The final area he showed me was the directors area in the stand which was carpeted and looked very smart but there was no designated disabled space anywhere which was slightly disappointing, but from there I was led down to pitch side and the dug outs. Then I went to pay my respects to Sir Bobby Robson as me and work had all signed an old Carlisle shirt to lay at the stadium. I was pleased to find out that all these shirts have since been shipped to Africa for children so it has been put to good use.
I felt on the whole that Newcastle United was doing a lot of good and they had a liason officer who cares and is interested in the supporters. It’s also refreshing that he didn’t try to paint a perfect picture. I also appreciated the time he took as the stadium was so busy with people paying their respects. I again thank all at Newcastle United for allowing me to be shown around the stadium and I value the insight this has given me.
Further news on visits to follow J