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Alyn and Deeside

When the laws are in place, but not adhered to by authorities and organisations.

Wheel chair rugby-1-15-X3

In the modern day, there is becoming more of a president in spotlighting and highlighting those with a disability and providing them with the same opportunities from an equality and equity standpoint.

We here at North Wales Crusaders Wheelchair Rugby League are no different, utilising the sport of Wheelchair Rugby League we have the goal of promoting community participation in healthy recreation and the relief of disability through sport by improving the conditions of life for individuals with a mental or physical disability.

As a charity and Wales’ largest Wheelchair Rugby League team, we set out to do this by utilising our six core values of; Passion, Pride, Innovative, Inspire, Togetherness and Inclusion.

We pride ourselves in being able to deliver sessions, whether they be Wheelchair Rugby League, Disability Awareness or one of our more recent projects, First Aid Training that cater to the needs of all participants no matter what need or ability and are as inclusive as is feasible but most importantly, are fun for all.

However, though we aim to do all these things and aspire to provide sessions and activities to those in the Flintshire community, we are often hit with a lot of restrictions.  The main of which is facilities and venues which are accessible to all and treat us with the same respect as others.

Though we have been a constant fixture of Deeside Leisure Centre since our inception back in 2013, (excluding the time in which the venue was a hospital due to the COVID-19 outbreak), they have not always been the best in the level of support we receive.

Throughout the years we have had several issues with publicising our club/ charity and events – one incident in 2019 as we requested to install our trophy display case when the premises were being refurbished after being a Hospital, which was turned down due to the venue not allowing external team to display any silverware/ trophies that they have won, although when we spoke to football teams that use the venue, they have no such issue.

Along with this, there have been times when we are turned away last minute, and the constant ‘double bookings’ of the venue where we have missed out on sessions/ activities due to their priority of other activities such as Football, Netball and Badminton.

Throughout the years we requested to have our own ‘pitch markings’ installed on the courts considering we have been utilising the centre for close to 10 years, and our team has been growing in both skill and size, which has key players who represent both nationally and Internationally, and bring positive publicity to the area.  We also offered to help fund the updated markings in the venue when it was being re-renovated, to which we were informed that it would happen when the venue got a new surface.

This should have been a simple reasonable adjustment, and not impact the other teams playing on these surfaces,  which for us would have been absolutely fantastic, however, upon the venue getting a new surface (which is extremely damaged, warped and uneven), we were not consulted for our markings and were informed that we would not be permitted to put down ourselves (using tape), as they did not want the new surface damaged.

We felt like they no longer wanted ourselves to operate from the premises and were being pushed out, and we didn’t get any reduction in costings when hiring for the hall, even though we brought substantive footfall to our matches.

We, in the end, had to make an agreement with Aura that we would purchase speciality tape that leaves no residue but is very costly to our budget, and these are costs that could be saved and spent on more initiatives with the community, or specialist equipment to help more people get involved.

Due to these ongoing issues coupled with their rising costs imposed by Aura and Flintshire County Council, we occasionally opt to host activities elsewhere, predominantly at Wrexham University, which due to their great Disability Liaison Officer at the ground and the University has a great understanding of the needs of most of the team, and makes great inroads to support us in this transition – however due to the rising costs of moving equipment, and being aware that individuals in Flintshire may not be able to afford to travel to Wrexham, or have the capacity to do this, this is slowly becoming less possible, and restricting the great impact and support the club has had in helping those isolated throughout Deeside.

Another huge issue for us in not only Deeside (Aura) but other venues we have used or played at is the lack of wheelchair access to changing rooms, and showers due to either door width or layout, and not complying with disability standards, which we would have felt with the renovation happening in 2019 after changing this from the hospital,  building regulations would have made this compulsory?

This is where funding issues come in, though we get grants and funding through funding agencies and are lucky enough to have a network of local businesses who happily support us through sponsorship. The costs involved in running the club and making our sessions affordable to those who wish to participate are slowly becoming difficult.

With all our costs rising each year, and due to a lot of our members being unable to work due to health issues we haven’t raised our fees in nearly 10 years.

As we do not have our own personal venue, although we have asked Aura on several occasions to try and work a partnership agreement out, which would be advantageous to the whole of Flintshire, and for them also, we are unable to source funding to assist in the overall running costs (venue hire, van and minibus hire), which is taking away critical costs that could be used to support some of the most vulnerable within our communities.

Though we can source funding to assist us in purchasing tangible assets (wheelchairs, balls etc..), if we could get some security around a venue, and have it invest in facilities that would make it accessible for all, including accessible changing rooms and showers, then think what an impact we could make to the local region, and support people into more activity and volunteering.

However, saying this a lot of funding will not cover items like hall hire which is our biggest expense.

I am more upset that we have laws to protect those with disabilities, yet, they are not enforced, and we are the ones who are being marginalised and discriminated against in preference to profit, when Aura is supposed to be a social organisation itself with one of its key aims to improving lives through health and wellbeing, which the crusader’s wheelchair rugby league lives and breathes, and has won several awards for.

Aura’s motto “Aura Leisure and Libraries Limited, known simply as ‘Aura’, is a charitable, not-for-profit organisation responsible for improving lives through health and well-being by providing leisure centres,  librariesplay areas and heritage services across the county of Flintshire for all.”