Sunderland fan praises Gillingham bosses for helping get disabled parents into match

A family of Sunderland fans have praised football club bosses for helping with disabled access so that they take in the latest Black Cats win.

Tuesday, 28th August 2018, 6:00 am
Sunderland fan Les Richardson with son Paul at the Black Cats' game against Gillingham.

Pensioners Val and Les Richardson, of Roker, were visiting son Paul in London when they decided to try and get tickets for the match at Gillingham last week.

Unfortunately, all disabled seating in the away end of the team’s Priestfield Stadium was sold out, but club officials allowed the couple, who are both 88, to attend the match in the home section of the ground alongside Paul and his twin David.

Val Richardson at the Gillingham v Sunderland game with son Paul.

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Paul now says he wants to pass on his thanks to Gillingham bosses for their help and support in getting him and his family into the match, which Jack Ross’s side won 4-1 after going behind early on.

“We asked about the disabled supporters section for Sunderland fans at the ground and were told it was sold out,” said David, 63.

“But the club said instead would we like to go in the main stand so of course we said yes.

“It’s difficult for my mam and dad to get to games these days as she uses a walking stick and he has a wheelchair and it’s nice to see a lower league club be so accommodating to help fans of an opposing team.

Sunderland players applaud supporters after the team's 4-1 win at Gillingham.

“They were really helpful and couldn’t do enough for us.

“Apart from the fantastic result, the staff at Gillingham treated us and their assistance from the point of contact to getting my disabled parents into the ground and our allocated seats, was first class.

“They actually gave us additional front row seats to accommodate wheelchairs in the main stand as although we wished to be with Sunderland supporters the staff thought my parents would be more comfortable in the covered stand.

“Big clubs like Sunderland have always made an effort to look after their elderly supporters but it’s great to see clubs like Gillingham doing so too.

“It’s very refreshing.”

The Richardsons have been lifelong fans and say despite the club’s double relegation in the past two seasons, there are reasons to be optimistic for the future of the side.

“My dad’s been going since the 1930s and my brother and I since the 1960s so there’s a lot of years of support in our family,” added Paul.

“We’re looking at getting tickets for the Oxford game as it’s sort of rekindled our passion for the game.

“Like many Sunderland fans I was so disappointed by relegation but being in this current division is really refreshing.

“And if all clubs are as welcoming as Gillingham then I hope our family may yet get to another away match in this division before the Lads hopefully gain automatic promotion.”