Scottish League One side Airdrieonians will open its new Diamond Sensory Room at their next match this weekend. 

The room, which enables fans with autism to enjoy the match in comfort, is the first of its kind in Scottish stadiums.

Airdrie Youth Academy coach Stevie Burr, whose son has autism, approached Commercial Director Dougy Allsop with the idea and just a few weeks later the Diamond Sensory Room is now ready to host ten young disabled fans and their companions.

Dougy said, "The Diamond Sensory Room will build on our ‘Football for Everyone’ programme, and provide a safe and comfortable place for children with autism and their companions to watch home matches".

"We are delighted to be the first team in Scotland to open such a facility, and hope that what we have achieved can be replicated at clubs big and small throughout the country".

The Diamond Sensory Room will be opened by Peter and Kate Shippey - founders of the Shippey Campaign - who will be the guests of honour at this weekend's match with Livingston.

Peter and Kate launched The Shippey Campaign to provide a sensory room at their club, Sunderland AFC, so that their sons could watch the team in an accessible and welcoming space. They have since continued to work with other clubs in the English Premier League to provide a similar service, and presented at the CAFE International Conference 2015 - Total Football Total Access - on the benefits of creating a dedicated sensory room.

Kate said, “We’re really thrilled that Airdrie are going to be the first club in Scotland to have a sensory room. We really appreciate them involving us in this, they’re amazing people in an amazing club and we can't wait to meet everyone".

The club, working with its Supporters Trust, aims to raise £10,000 to furnish the sensory room. Celebrities including Star Wars actor Mark Hamill and comedian Ricky Gervais have signed limited-edition Airdrie shirts which will be auctioned. Tom Hanks, William Shatner and Eric Idle have also signed shirts to raise money for the cause.

Majella Hope, the Senior Group Worker for Sports at the Hope For Autism group based in Airdrie said, "Football matches for young people with Autism can be a daunting experience - noise levels, crowds and the unpredictability of the game all have the potential to cause Sensory Overload. Being able to view the game from an Autism friendly box would ensure young people have the opportunity to attend games in a more comfortable environment and allow them to experience the joy of football something many families have not experienced together before".

The Diamond Sensory Room is the latest in a long line of access and inclusion improvements made at Airdrie's Excelsior Stadium.

Last year, a new accessible seating area for wheelchair users was opened and named in tribute to former player Sammy Conn. Sammy had motor neurone's disease and Sammy's Shelter provides a great legacy meaning more disabled fans can attend live matches in his honour.

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A big congratulations to all involved in opening the new Diamond Sensory Room!

Published 16/02/2017