Estonia experience for a Northern Ireland supporter
I am a Northern Ireland Football supporter, a wheelchair user and attend as many matches as possible, home and away. My latest 'adventure' was to the recent qualifier in Estonia. Several months prior to the game I tried to find out about wheelchair access, tickets etc. I was informed by the IFA that the Northern Ireland fans would be housed in a stand at one end of stadium, but that this stand was not wheelchair accessible and I should make direct contact with the Estonian FA/Stadium to acquire tickets for another part of the ground. Now aswith all fans, you want to sit with your own supporters... however I was informed that this wasn't possibleand that the most suitable area for wheelchair users was in the Main standso I purchased 3 tickets one for me the rest for non-disabled friends.
Once arriving in Estonia we took a taxi out to the ground. We made our way to the main stand, through security and asked a stadium employee where I should go to gain access to the stand. He pointed to a flight of approx 20 steps!After some discussion, I got 'hoisted' up the steps by staff and friends (a situation most wheelchair users try to avoid if at all possible). The accessible areawas in a reasonable position, situated at the rear of the first tier of seats in a level area at the half way line. At half-time I made my way out unto the concourse behind the stand where the usual food, drinks and toilets are. I couldn’t see an accessible toilet so I tried to get into the standard toiletbut I couldn’t fit into any of the cubicles. I approached a member of staff and asked about the wheelchair accessible toilet, and after much scratching of heads and discussions on walkie-talkies, I was told there was no accessible toilets in the stadium! I had no otheralternative than to be lifted back down the steps, call a taxi, return to my hotel and use the toilet there, of course by which point the match was nearly over so I didn’t bother going back to the stadium.
The stadium looked quite modern and had apparently had some sort of refurbishment recently, obviously access considerations weren’t part of their thinking!
Estonia v Northern Ireland Euro 2012 Qualifier, 6th Sept 2011
A La Coq Arena, Tallinn, Estonia