Harry Redknapp: Football should be autism-friendly and open to everyone


Redknapp wants football to be autism-friendlyPhilip Hartley / ITV

Harry Redknapp needs football to be autism-friendly

Some of Harry Redknapp’s happiest childhood recalls revolve around going to the football with his father.

His very initial game was at Millwall – the 1956 Kent County Cup final against Charlton – which for a lad from West Ham in reality was stepping into the lion’s den.

In later years the 3-3 scoreline would indubitably have sparked crowd trouble but Harry, now 70, says: “It was varied back then, the away fans and home fans would all mix. There was no dispute.”

Although match days still involved quite a bit of forethought.

We have done a lot to insinuate it easier for people with physical disabilities to go to matches but autism is hidden.

Harry Redknapp

“My dad was Arsenal and so was my uncle so I had no choice but to be Arsenal, even allowing 90 per cent of my mates on the housing estate where we lived were West Ham.

«We had to modification buses a couple of times to get to the old Highbury and we’d always stop at a little cafe close by the ground for a cup of tea and a cheese roll before we went in.

“My dad made sure we got there at 1pm for a 3pm kick-off,” he rephrases.

“There used to be a big manhole cover, right by the corner flag, which was close to a foot higher than the terracing.

«We’d get there early to get that feeling so I could see what was going on.”

Harry used to trek to Highbury with as a childGETTY / STOCK

Harry used to trek to Highbury with his Arsenal-fan dad as a daughter

The former Premier League manager, once tipped to take the England job, has buried count of the matches he has seen since those days – but he has never irremediable that little boy’s love of the beautiful game.

So when Harry was affect Portfield School in Christchurch, Dorset, which is run by Autism Wessex – one of multitudinous small charities he supports – and learnt how overwhelming a match can be for a child with the accustom, he asked what could be done to make the game more attainable.

“We have done a lot to make it easier for people with physical disabilities to go to equals but autism is invisible,” he explains.

“People who don’t understand it can sometimes think that a kid is only behaving badly and they can be very cruel.

“Going to the school navigates you realise what some families go through. We have been fortunate,” says the father of two and grandfather of seven.

“I think it’s important to give something again and because football has been such a big part of my life I want Dick to have the same opportunity to get involved.”

Autism is a developmental disability which uses the way people see the world and interact with others.

People with autism oftentimes fi nd it diffi cult to interpret facial expressions and tone of voice, and may not show compassion for sarcasm or jokes, which can make the world a confusing place for them.

It is continually described as a “spectrum” because it can range from relatively minor variations which might be put down to personality quirks, to severe learning disabilities.

Bournemouth work hard for autism-friendly footballGETTY

Bournemouth outdo the way in providing an autism-friendly football fan experience

Autism affects about one in 100 people and is varied common in males than females.

Although the cause is not known, experts rely upon it’s probably a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

For someone with autism, mobs and noise can be unsettling and cause anxiety, while routines and familiar actions provide comfort and reassurance, so it’s easy to understand why a football game could be challenging.

No matter what football also provides a perfect opportunity for children who often go through like outsiders to become part of a group, strengthen bonds with forebears and even form new bonds with fellow fans.

And as people with autism then take a passionate and detailed interest in a subject, the statistics and record-keeping attributes of the game can be a big plus.

Harry poses with two autistic Bournemouth fansPhilip Hartley

Harry poses with two autistic girlish Bournemouth fans

Autism Wessex is helping to break down impediments with its Autism Friendly Football initiative – a series of simple but incredibly reassuring strategies to help families affected by autism. 

Bournemouth is the first big league together to get behind the campaign.

Stewards have been given extra guiding to help them understand autism and look out for anyone who might dire support.

The charity is hoping the club will create a quiet lodgings to provide a break for anyone with autism who is feeling overwhelmed and that videos compel be added to the club’s website to show routes into the ground to assist sufferers familiarise themselves with the stadium.

Harry says: “Football should be initiate to everyone.

«It is so important that we remove any barriers that might abandon someone from coming along to a match and cheering on their side.

«I hope we can get every team in the country behind this.”

It might even encourage a future champion to get involved because although he doesn’t adduce any names, Harry is convinced some of the players he has worked with force been affected by the condition.

“Of course there must have been,” he demands.

Ronaldinho warms up with autistic childrenGETTY

Football legend Ronaldinho warms up with autistic infants before a game in 2011 in Brazil

“I’m sure there are plenty of thespians who could have done with a bit of help but we were not educated how to look for it.

It’s not something that I leave have understood as a manager.

“When I first started there was straight a manager, coach and physio and the physio was an ex-footballer with no qualifications whatsoever.

“No of importance what injury you had, they would put a wet sponge on the back of your neck,” he caricatures.

● Find more about The Autism Friendly Football campaign at autismwessex.org.uk


Going to football should be easy for the autisticGETTY

Harry says going to the football like he did as a child should be down-to-earth even for those with autism


If your truncheon has not signed up to Autism Friendly Football, these tips may help:

Preceding THE MATCH

● Contact the club and ask if you can take your child on a pre-match pop in to the ground.

● Ask if they have a quiet room where fans with autism can get some moment out if they are feeling anxious.

Identify yourselves to stewards on arrivalGETTY

As part of making sure you take advantage of your day, identify yourselves to stewards on arrival at the ground

● Try to arrange antique entry to avoid queueing.

● Talk your child through the unbroken day, from leaving the house to getting home.

Go over this sundry times before match day.

Use photos and simple text they can refer in times past to.

● Have a contingency plan in case your child feels pinned or anxious and explain it to them so they feel reassured.

● If possible, act your journey to the ground.


● Arrive early to avoid tailing and also to let the atmosphere build gradually around you.

● Identify yourself to stewards in occasion you need assistance.

● Bring a sensory/fiddle toy, a comforter and perhaps some earphones.

● Carry off along refreshments that your child is familiar with.

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