This Saturday’s Premier League fixture with Brentford will see Everton acknowledge and celebrate the improvements made to accessibility across all of the Club and its Everton in the Community (EitC) sites.
The Club is once again supporting Level Playing Field’s annual campaign, which this year has been branded as ‘Unite for Access’.
Ahead of the game, evertonfc.com spoke to Chris Massam who recently joined the Club as its Equity and Inclusion Lead for Accessibility and Wellbeing.
In the Q&A below, Chris explains the breadth of his work, what he gets up to during the working week, on a matchday and how he and the rest of the Equity and Inclusion team support and engage with the Everton Disabled Supporters’ Association (EDSA), plus other key fan and non-fan groups.
Chris, what does your role entail?
I’m responsible for giving guidance on accessibility and contributing to the development of our strategies, practices and action plans. With a clear focus on making every Everton venue accessible for all.
Part of my role is taking on the responsibilities traditionally carried out by a Disability Access Officer. This includes engaging with staff at Everton and supporters both on matchdays and during the working week.
One of my main objectives has been to drive awareness and promote equity and inclusion for all fans, staff and visitors to Everton with a visible or hidden disability. One of the most pleasing aspects of my role is that I am able to contribute and help build a more inclusive culture where everybody feels respected, celebrated and empowered while also having a sense of belonging.
What does the Club’s relationship with EDSA look like?
I’ve been working closely with EDSA to build on our ongoing dialogue with Everton’s wider disabled supporter base.
Founder and Life President Steve Heneghan, Chairperson Mark Dyer, and the EDSA Committee have all been extremely welcoming and co-operative. I know EDSA have been involved in the consultation around the new stadium and I look forward to continuing our partnership as the Club progresses towards Everton Stadium and the new opportunities that presents.
What do you get up to on a Goodison Park matchday?
My main role on matchday is to support all staff working on the site with any queries that come from home or away supporters. Typically, this would mean working closely with stewards and accessibility stewards, the fan engagement team and the ticket office staff - including our Disability Ticketing Liaison Officer, Brendan Connolly.
I also try and make sure I have some time to catch up with any EDSA members in attendance. This allows me to understand or follow-up on any incidents or queries from previous matches as well as discuss future projects.
At Goodison, we have invested a lot of time, effort and financial resources in further developing our accessible facilities and services. Some of those tangible and visible improvements include installing new changing place toilets, a new accessible platform in the Sir Philip Carter Park Stand and Main Stand, improvements to accessible toilets and kiosks throughout the stadium. There's also been the introduction of an audio commentary device that is available for home and away supporters.
The Club is delighted by how these improvements have been received and there has been a lot of learnings and consultation that we can take into our new stadium project.
What will accessibility look like at Everton Stadium?
It’s been at the forefront of everybody’s minds and we want it to be one of, if not, the most accessible stadium in the country. Since joining the Club, I’ve been involved in most of the stakeholder meetings and it’s been really pleasing to see accessibility being so key to those conversations.
We are aiming to have the highest number of accessible seating in the Premier League and want to ensure that our disabled supporters have a choice in what kind of view of the game they want.
We have a monthly meeting with EDSA, in which we update them on new stadium developments and testing concepts. We also seek feedback on some of the facilities and services we plan to offer.
And it’s not just EDSA we’re keen to work with, but the entire fanbase and community, too. The Club has always remained committed to getting everyone’s thoughts and opinions and we have seen surveys that have gone out – with more to come - and focus groups planned on what’s ultimately going to be a stadium for every Evertonian.
What does the wellbeing portion of your role entail?
I run wellbeing initiatives across the whole of the Club and all of our working sites. The aim is to drive a positive culture around mental health and wellbeing and make sure that everybody has the support and opportunities available to them.
I can’t take any credit but it was fantastic in my role to see EitC officially open The People’s Place this week and Everton become the first Premier League club to launch such a facility.
This will be an important facility for the community and our wider city region. If you have not seen it do take some time to learn about it. It really is ground-breaking.
How can supporters contact you?
If you have an enquiry about the Club’s Equity and Inclusion work, please email AllTogetherNow@Evertonfc.com. Questions relating to accessibility and/or disabled ticketing can be directed to Accessibility@evertonfc.com. Please get in touch and me or a member of the team will be happy to help!