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!


Aubrey Bingham


Estonia v Northern Ireland  Euro 2012 Qualifier, 6th Sept 2011


A La Coq Arena, Tallinn, Estonia