Twickenham Stadium Tour Accessibility ReviewBy Marianne Lampon -
On a scorcher of a Friday, I had the privilege of heading to Twickenham Stadium to check out the accessibility of the stadium's guided tour.
After an introduction from our tour guide at the Rugby Store on the South Side of the stadium, we were guided through to a lift which brought us up to Level 6 of the stadium. So far so good as climbing the stairs all that way would have been a challenge!
The bird’s eye view from this height in the stands over the playing field was truly breathtaking. You really get a sense of the scale up there which is hard to appreciate when watching a game on TV. Seating 82,000 people, it’s the second-largest stadium in the UK, coming in just behind Wembley which seats 90,000 people.
After a peek into one of the Boxes, we then took the lift back down to Level 3 to some of the VIP areas – exciting!
Firstly, our guide took us into the Members Lounge and Bar. Recently refurbished, the suite is an ideal area for an exclusive event or meeting with stunning views over the pitch. There is a wheelchair gallery just outside of the lounge which allows those with disabilities to view the rugby game without hassle or worry. A carer is also allowed into this gallery.
We were then shown Shane Record’s ‘Forever England’ First World War commemorative painting. The painting is a dedication to the last England team to play before the start of the First World War and to the memory of all rugby players who served and died in the conflict. Learning about the players and their contributions to the War was moving and a very special moment.
Next up was the President’s Suite, where the Royals and many VIP guests have previously sat and dined. If we weren't feeling VIP enough already, we were then given the incredible opportunity to sit in the Royal Box. With comfortable padded seats and an unbeatable view of the pitch, it’s no wonder that this is the most coveted seating in Twickenham.
I took a seat behind where the Queen has sat alongside seats for William, Kate, and co. along the front row of the Royal Box. Admittance into the Royal Box is usually by invitation only so it was a pretty awesome experience to be given the chance to feel like a Royal for a few minutes!
Whilst seated in our ‘thrones’, our tour guide told us about how there is a specific area of seating in the stadium where those who are blind or visually impaired can sit during a rugby game. Those with visual impairments can link up to an expanded commentary of a game through an earpiece. This allows them to immerse themselves in the electric atmosphere in the stadium whilst not missing out on any of the detailed commentary of the unfolding match.
All of these VIP areas on Level 3 were accessible with even, flat surfaces and multiple areas to sit down along the way.
Next up, we headed back down in the lift to ground level where we were given the privilege to see the England dressing room. Our guide gave us information on match-day preparations and routines and you could just sense the excitement, nerves and adrenaline that must be present as the team get ready for their games in there.
The highlight of the tour for me came next – the chance to come out through the player’s tunnel on to the pitch. I could imagine the roar and excitement that the players are welcomed with when walking on to the field.
Of course, we weren’t actually allowed on the pitch but we were able to explore pitch-side which was incredible in itself. Along all of the sides of the pitch there is a row of wheelchair friendly places meaning that matches can be easily accessible for those with mobility issues. Plus, each wheelchair user is allowed to bring a carer with them, meaning that the day should go as smoothly as possible.
After this great experience, we were escorted to the World Rugby Museum where there is a huge array of history, information, memorabilia and interactive activities. Entrance to the museum is included in the price of the Tour ticket and is well worth a visit to round off the day.
Overall, the Tour and Museum were extremely accessible for those with mobility and disability issues. The tour is done at a steady pace, taking between 1 ½ to 2 hours, and there are plenty of opportunities to sit and rest throughout. All Levels on the tour can be reached by taking a lift, the surfaces are flat and even and there are disabled toilets throughout the route. I would highly recommend this tour for any rugby fans and for those with disabilities or mobility issues.
We also got the chance to have a chat with Amy Rolph, the Tours Coordinator at the World Rugby Museum.
Q: How does it work for people with disabilities on a match day?
A: You have to speak to the ticket office about disabled parking. Most of the disabled seating is pitch-side at ground level but there is also a wheelchair platform on Level 3 as well which is lift accessible.
Q: With the Olympics starting and with the Paralympics in September do you think you’ll get more disabled people interested in rugby and sport more generally?
A: The fact that rugby sevens is going to be played this year for the first time at the Olympics will probably be good for visitor levels at Twickenham and general interest in the sport. One of our tour guides went to see the Wheelchair rugby in London 2012 and thought that was great! The sport is a cross between rugby and basketball because I think they bounce the ball as well.
Q: Can you tell me some more about the Injured Players Foundation?
A: There are dangers to the sport and people do get injured. But the Injured Players Foundation looks after anyone for example if they get neck injuries whilst playing. Part of the Rugby Football Union, the charity look after seriously injured players for life and help prevent future injuries through research and education. The charity aim to make the game safer and improve the care for those that are injured. More information on the charity can be found on their website.