News and fans' stories #MyMatchday I am at the match as a fan, not as a fan with Parkinson's Our latest #MyMatchday interview is with Klaus Eriksen, a football fan from Norway. Klaus is a lifelong Brann Bergen supporter, and he shares his experiences of being a football fan with Parkinson's Disease. He tells us of how the condition has affected his typical matchday, and the importance of enjoying the game alongside his friends and fellow fans. How did you become a Brann Bergen supporter? A friend took me to my first match in 1969. I still remember the game so clearly, and I have been a huge fan of the team ever since. What have been some of your favourite memories as a Brann Bergen supporter? My first match is a very clear memory, but my favourite moment has to be winning the Eliteserien - the top league in Norway - in 2007. I never thought that it would ever happen in my lifetime. We hadn't been champions since 1963, so it was a long wait but it was an amazing moment to finally win it. We were six points clear at the top of the league by the end of the season, meaning we qualified for the UEFA Champions League the next year. My favourite Brann player of all time was Charlie Miller. He was a Scottish international midfielder who played for us between 2004 and 2006. He had fantastic skills, and in my opinion was the best player to wear the Brann kit. He also won the Norwegian Cup with us in 2004. What does your typical matchday experience look like? My routine is nothing too special really - it is the same as most other fans. I just need to remember to bring the exact amount of medication that I will need with me, and to have water with me. I haven't really experienced any access problems when I have been to a match, but I can get around the stadium like most other fans can. Has your experience of attending matches changed over time? Stadiums have become much more welcoming and accommodating for all fans. The standards are much higher now, and the services like food and drink are much better than they used to be too. There aren't really any terraces any more, but seats with good views of the pitch. I now live quite far away from Bergen, but I still have my season ticket at the stadium and get to about 10 matches a season. I will watch the rest of the matches on the television. How does Parkinson's Disease affect you and your matchday experience? People who have Parkinson's Disease can sometimes have difficulty with speaking and reduced facial expressions. It can also affect how people walk and write. For me, it is important that I can watch the match with my friends who don't have Parkinson's Disease. Sometimes stadiums will ask me to sit on a platform with wheelchair users, but I am not a wheelchair user and I don't want to be separated from my friends. I am at the match as a fan, not as a fan with Parkinson's. More and more, stadiums are offering easy access seats in with the rest of the crowd. They are perfect for me and other fans with Parkinson's Disease. Due to the common effects of Parkinson's Disease, I am sometimes mistaken for somebody who is too drunk. I have been turned away from clubs and bars before because of this - it hasn't happened at a football match so far but I guess it could, particularly at a high-profile game. It is important that stewards and staff understand this and are trained to realise that this is just part of my health condition. What impact does attending live football matches have on you? Football matches take you on a journey through all the emotions - from delight to devastation and hopefully back to delight again by full time. I feel that my club values me as a fan and as a person, and this makes all the difference. What can football clubs do to become more welcoming for differently disabled fans? For me it is so important to feel integrated. Disabled people face enough barriers and challenges without having to feel segregated from our friends and family members. We should be able to all sit together amongst our fellow fans and cheer our team on together. Finally, what message would you give to a disabled person who hasn't attended a live match before? I would say try it! Live matches are much more fun than watching at home on the TV. You will enjoy it - especially if your team wins! We would like to thank Klaus for sharing his powerful story with us and taking part in the #MyMatchday series. Klaus' story highlights some of the common issues faced by many disabled fans, as well as specific barriers affecting fans with non-visible disabilities or long-term health conditions. Klaus discussed some of the physical barriers such as a lack of inclusive seating areas, as well as attitudinal barriers and assumptions relating to the effects of Parkinson's Disease. CAFE has commenced a research project to better inform our works around non-visibly disabled people and people with long term health conditions. We hope to offer robust guidance for stakeholders across football to welcome such fans to their stadiums and ensure that the game truly is fully accessible – Total Football #TotalAccess. To support this project, we have launched a survey for non-visibly disabled people, people with a long-term health condition or their companions to complete. The survey can be found here, and will be open until 1800 CET on 15 May 2020 (Word document version available to download here). We thank you for sharing your experiences with us, and you can find out more about the survey and wider research project here. If you are a disabled fan, or know a disabled fan who would like to participate in our #MyMatchday interviews, please feel free to contact CAFE’s Fan Liaison, Access and Administration Officer, Amy Wilson, by email on [email protected] or call +44 (0)208 065 5108. You can also contact CAFE via Twitter at @cafefootball and Facebook on www.facebook.com/cafefootball.