One autistic supporter’s parents worked closely with their club to address the challenges their son faced when attending matches - with groundbreaking results.

A love of football and going to support your team doesn’t always go well with being averse to loud noises, bright lights and lots of people. Despite trying many different ways to help him enjoy the live game, eight year old Nathan Shippey was struggling to cope with the match day experience at his beloved Sunderland.

Nathan’s parents got in touch with Sunderland’s Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO) Chris Waters, whose role is to listen to fans and help them get the most from the supporters’ experience. They then worked together to create ‘The Nathan Shippey Sensory Room’. The room is close to the action but sound-proofed to create a safe space for those with sensory challenges. It is the first of its kind created by a Premier League club and enables Nathan and his family to enjoy the live match.

He’s excited, he can come and watch his favourite team live. It’s emotional really.”
Kate Shippey, Nathan's Mum

The Sensory Room is now in constant demand from both home and away fans. It has given the Shippey family an experience they never thought would be possible for Nathan, as his mother Kate commented, “It’s just opened a whole new world to him. He’s excited, he can come and watch his favourite team live. It’s emotional really. It’s life-changing for our family, and let’s hope it is for many more families.”

Nathan Shippey and his Dad

All Premier League clubs must employ a Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO), whose job is to listen to fans and bring them closer to their club. Partly thanks to his hard work on this initiative, Chris Waters, who has been the SLO at the Stadium of Light for four years, was awarded the Football Supporters' Federation's “Supporter Liaison Officer of the Year” title this season.