To provide further opportunitites for exchange and peer-to-peer learning, CAFE launched the European DAO Mentorship Programme.

The aim of the Programme is to attribute one mentor (an experienced DAO) to one less experienced / newly appointed DAO, who will have regular exchange (meeting once a month for a period of at least one year). The mentor can advise the mentee on day-to-day questions and also support them in the creation of an access strategy, for example.

Read more about the European DAO Mentorship Programme.

We are delighted to welcome 10 experienced DAOs to join the Programme as mentors. You can find out more about each of the mentors below.

Peter Busuttil, Malta FA

Peter has been working as a DAO since 2014, in addition to other roles he fulfills at the Malta Football Association. He has contributed to the CAFE and UEFA DAO Handbook, and helped to coordinate CAFE workshops held locally for stakeholders across Maltese football.

Peter wanted to become a DAO Mentor to be able to share his experiences, and to foster a two-way learning opportunity. He speaks English, Italian and Maltese, and is looking forward to offering his expertise through the European DAO Mentorship Programme.

"#TotalAccess means total inclusivity, and participation for all across all levels of football"

Pilar Castillo Cid stood next to the Real Betis logo with her arms foldedPilar Castillo Cid, Real Betis Balompié

Pilar became DAO at Real Betis in 2016, working to ensure access and inclusivity is at the heart of all decisions made at the club. After becoming DAO, Pilar reached out to all DAOs in Spain and quickly recognised the value in working together to raise much greater levels of social awareness.

Pilar leads a group of volunteers supporting disabled people to enjoy an inclusive matchday experience, and addresses enquiries from disabled fans on a daily basis. She is a native Spanish speaker, and keen to share ideas and experiences as a Mentor.

"#TotalAccess means raising further awareness around access and inclusion at all stadiums"

Jon Dyster smiling in front of a windowJon Dyster, Arsenal

Jon has 9 years experience of working as a DAO, now serving as Disability Access Manager at Arsenal after previous experience of managing accessibility at Live Nation music festivals, Tottenham Hotspur (including Wembley Stadium), and leading the largest full-time Access Team in Europe at Manchester City.

Jon has been involved in the development of a major stadium build at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and developing large scale British Sign Language services for UK music festivals. An English speaker, he has the experience of managing major stadia both operationally and strategically and has developed a large network of contacts across Europe.

"#TotalAccess means absolutely no barriers - a totally equal experience for all"

Peter Heckmann wearing an Arminia Bielefeld topPeter Heckmann, DSC Arminia Bielefeld

Peter has been working as a DAO since 2008, having been a registered nurse for many years previously. He has been actively consulting with disabled fans on access and inclusion matters, including advising on accessible stadium design.

Peter has helped to implement inclusive seating options for learning disabled fans, extended the number of wheelchair user spaces available and overseen the construction of a sensory viewing room at the stadium. He speaks German, Dutch and English, and is keen to offer advice on fundraising and how to implement new facilities at an existing stadium.

"#TotalAccess means giving everyone the opportunity to experience football in the stadium, and to share the good feeling with others"

Dave Messenger holding an award in front of an FSA-branded backdropDave Messenger, Watford

Dave joined his boyhood club in 2015, and works as EDI (Equality, Diversity & Inclusion) & Disability Access Officer. His father was ambulant disabled, meaning Dave has long held a personal and professional affinity to his role.

Dave overseen the opening of the first purpose-built sensory room at the stadium in 2016, as well as increasing the number of available wheelchair user spaces from 38 to 154 over a three-year period. Working with the club's disabled fans, he has seen membership of the DSA grow to over 200. Dave is an English speaker, and wants to pass on experience of improving access in a stadium that turns 100 years old in 2022.

"#TotalAccess means exploring every available option to improve the matchday experience for disabled supporters"

Indrek Petersoo wearing a suitIndrek Petersoo, Estonian Paralympic Committee

Indrek worked as DAO at Levadia Tallinn between 2014 and 2021, having been employed by the club since 2002. A successful international corporate businessman, Indrek has many diverse experiences to share and speaks Estonian, English, Finnish and Russian.

Indrek coordinated the Together We Move programme at Levadia Tallinn, which won the European Club Association's Best Achievement Award in 2015. The programme was centred around assistance dog users and providing valuable training. He is committed to the topic of access and inclusion, and interested in sharing many past experiences as a Mentor.

"#TotalAccess means that football is for all - that nobody gets left out!"

April Smith stood in front of a large Southend United logoApril Smith, Southend United

April has been working as DAO for Southend United since 2016, becoming the full-time lead on Diversity and Inclusion in 2018 and working across initiatives both at the club and its Trust.

April helped to develop a sensory room at the club and opening dialogue with their disabled fans. She has real-life examples to share with other DAOs about what has worked and what hasn't, with knowledge and contextual experience at a club further down the league ladder. April is an English speaker, with a particular interest in community group involvement and developing best practice around themed engagement days.

"#TotalAccess means creating and allowing an environment for everyone to have the opportunity to enjoy live sport, in a space where they are comfortable to feel all the wild emotions that sport can bring, and feeling a part of a community for the rest of their lives"

Catherine ThomasCatherine Thomas, Swansea City

Catherine has worked at her club for 17 years, and is truly passionate about delivering excellent customer service to all supporters. She has developed a strong relationship with their proactive DSA, and has taken a particular interest in ensuring that autistic fans are able to feel safe, welcomed and comfortable in enjoying live football.

Catherine enjoys all aspects of increasing participation, and is developing an inclusion tournament to be held at the club's academy. She is an English speaker, and is heavily involved in everything around the club's sensory room, accessible ticketing and trainings. A training around dementia is currently underway at the time of writing.

"#TotalAccess means that inclusion is for everybody. That is what inclusion is all about!"

Laura WrightLaura Wright, Wolverhampton Wanderers

Laura became DAO at Wolves in 2018, working to enhance the matchday experiences of home and away supporters and incorporating the full supporter journey from booking tickets right through to attending the game. She has also travelled across Europe with disabled Wolves fans, networking with DAOs outside of England to collate access information for travelling supporters.

Laura has a strong understanding around neurodiversity, and has seen the club's dementia project be replicated globally. She wants to help other clubs to be more consistent with their approach to accessibility, and show how small changes can make a huge difference to many disabled fans. She also wants to boost engagement with DAOs and show the benefit of working together rather than apart.

In January 2021, Laura told the CAFE website more about her roles and experiences. Laura also received the Club Initiative Award at the 4th International CAFE Conference Access and Inclusion Champions Awards in December 2021.

"#TotalAccess means everyone having the same experience along the supporter journey - from pre-match to the game and everything in between. It is about giving disabled people the opportunity to enjoy the full fan experience"

Andrea Zoppis speaking at a UEFA eventAndrea Zoppis, San Marino FA

Andrea joined the San Marino FA in 2015, becoming DAO in 2017. He also works as Deputy Licensing Manager, responsible for international projects and the development of both the DAO and SLO roles. In 2021, Andrea achieved the UEFA Certificate in Football Management masters certificate.

Andrea has overseen the renovation of San Marino Stadium through UEFA's HatTrick programme, offering much greater accessibility and the implementation of audio-descriptive commentary (ADC). Fluent in Italian and English, he is also a trained ADC commentator himself, and along with two colleagues provided Italian ADC at matches played in Rome during UEFA EURO 2020 before travelling to London to deliver the service at the Final. Andrea is keen to share these experiences and help DAOs to improve the experiences of all disabled fans.

The San Marino FA received the National Association Award at the 4th International CAFE Conference Access and Inclusion Champions Awards in December 2021.

"#TotalAccess means giving the opportunity to experience and enjoy the stadium in the same way, on matchdays and at all other times as well"

CAFE would like to invite all DAOs who would like to to take part in the European DAO Mentorship Programme as a mentee to apply via our website by end of April 2022.

We will then inform mentors and mentees of their pairing in May 2022. It is expected the mentor and mentee will meet regularly throughout the 2022/23 season.

If you have any questions regarding the European DAO Mentorship Programme, please email us at [email protected] or call +44 (0)203 355 9867.