Stamford Bridge has a brand new facility, a sensory room which will be in use at a match for the first time today, having officially launched last week with the aid of Gary Cahill and Toni Rudiger.
The two defenders joined pupils from Queensmill School for the launch and they saw first-hand that the sensory room is designed to provide a safe, controlled and stress-free environment where children with autism or other sensory needs can enjoy the game.
Large crowds and loud noises can be overwhelming for some, making football matches particularly stressful, but the new safe space offers an area inside the stadium with a view of the pitch, which can be tailored to provide a calming environment.
The new sensory room is part of a wider Premier League initiative to improve football stadium accessibility. As well as a comfortable area to view the game, it includes a calming room featuring fibre optics, bubble tubes and other devices to help remove anxiety if the child becomes distressed, as well as sound, light and heat levels which can be customised throughout, depending on individual needs.
‘It’s a fantastic idea and something the club should be proud of,’ said Cahill. ‘There aren’t many clubs who have this facility, and it’s fantastic for these children to come and watch football in an environment they’re comfortable in. Maybe before this room, they wouldn’t have come to the stadium to watch the game, even if they love football.
‘Also, the families can feel it’s easier for them to come and watch the game with this room for their child.’
Andy Nowak, from Queensmill School, explained: ‘A sensory space like this is an opportunity for a family to come to an environment that would previously have been completely exclusive to them. If you have an autistic young person and you’re a big football fan, it’s unlikely you would ever take them to a game. Having a sensory space at a stadium allows a whole family access to a football game in a safe environment.’
The sensory room will initially be used by children from Queensmill School, with the assistance of their specialist staff, before being made available to other young supporters with sensory needs and their families. If you are interested in making use of the space at a future match, please contact the Chelsea Foundation’s senior disability inclusion officer Andy Rose by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org