Celebrating the Festival of Footy when living with disability

Posted 2 weeks ago by Georgie Waters
Going to watch football is a great way to participate in Australian culture. [Source: Shutterstock]
Going to watch football is a great way to participate in Australian culture. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points

  • This year, the AFL Gather Round is being held from April 4 to April 7 
  • Player appearances and open training sessions mean that you could meet your favourite players this season
  • Making football accessible for people living with disability is important for inclusivity

In Adelaide, the Gather Round football event is about to begin, with all home and away games of one round being played in Adelaide from April 4 to April 7, 2024.

Of all nine games played in South Australia for the Gather Round festival, five will be played at Adelaide Oval, which is a prominent playing ground for footballers.

Player appearances and open training sessions are scheduled throughout the Gather Round festival with teams including Fremantle, Sydney Swans, West Coast Eagles, Western Bulldogs, Carlton, Geelong, St Kilda, GWS Giants, Collingwood, Gold Coast Suns, Richmond and Hawthorn. 

Macca’s Footy Festival will also be held during the Gather Round festivities, with four fun-filled days set on the River Torrens in Adelaide, with licensed bars, food trucks and even a 150-metre zip line. 

To check out the full list of events in Gather Round, head over to the official AFL Gather Round website. 

However, for people living with disability, ensuring that a venue is accessible means that everyone can enjoy the football fanatics together. 

Around 4.4 million Australians live with disability, according to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, highlighting the importance of making venues accessible. 

At Adelaide Oval, 275 spaces suitable for wheelchair users can be booked, but to secure this specific seating you must advise the ticketing agent when purchasing your football pass. To find out more, phone 1300 665 915.

If you’re travelling to watch the games at Adelaide Oval, bus, train and tram services are also free for people with their game pass after noon on Thursday and Friday, with free transport all day on the weekend.

Matches in the AFL Gather Round will also be played at Norwood and Mount Barker. Free bus shuttles are available to and from the city for these games for people with their game passes, however, check your accessibility requirements. If the buses are not appropriate for you, finding alternative transportation may be required. 

Getting to football stadiums is set to become more accessible for people living with disability, with new reforms for the Disability Transport Standards recently announced by the government.

Public transport timetables and route updates will be provided in accessible formats and more audio announcements on public transport will make travel easier.

The government is looking to increase ‘the ratio of accessible taxi rank spaces available for use by wheelchair-accessible taxis.’ To read more, have a look at this article: Making public transport more accessible for people with disability.

Conversely, for some people with other disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder, being in loud crowded areas can be distressing — even if the event is something they looked forward to, such as watching football live in the stadium. planning is a good way to minimise related stress for people with a sensitivity to overstimulation.

Using earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones can minimise the impact of excessive noise from people shouting and talking loudly. 

Stadiums can get busy quickly so arriving early and finding your seat can relieve some stress of the unknown. Additionally, many people grab food during the breaks during half-time. Going to the food areas outside of these times might mean you miss seeing a goal but will reduce the time you spend queuing and bustling past others. 

Football stadiums and sporting events are generally becoming more inclusive, making it easier for people living with disability to get involved. 

At Suncorp Stadium, located in Queensland, the sunflower program is embraced, with free lanyards available at information stands. The staff here are trained to recognise the symbol and provide extra support if required during security checks or at other points during your visit.

Upcoming events at Suncorp Stadium include National Rugby League games, with the Dolphins versus Wests Tigers playing on April 6, 2024.

Not all Australian football stadiums have comprehensive information about the hidden disabilities sunflower lanyards, but Melbourne Cricket Ground has several accessible options for people with sensory difficulties. To learn more about the benefits of using sunflower lanyards, head over to this article: Sunflower lanyards are brightening the way for people with disability.

For example, visual stories can help people with autism spectrum disorder understand the process of going to watch a game of football in a stadium. There are also low sensory spaces in Melbourne Cricket Ground for use by patrons. 


What is your favourite part about going to watch the footy?

Let the team at Talking Disability know on social media. 

For more information related to disability news, subscribe to the FREE weekly newsletter


Relevant content: 

Making public transport more accessible for people with disability

Sunflower lanyards are brightening the way for people with disability

Increased employment for NDIS participants and their families