Jo Hamilton, Graeme Shinnie, Adam Rooney and Donnie the sheep

Aberdeen Football Club has a new goal: to become Scotland’s first autism-friendly football club! As part of an initiative designed to raise understanding of autism in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, the club will take steps to achieve our Autism Friendly Award, which recognises organisations that make sure autistic visitors can access and enjoy their venues.

Over the coming weeks, a group of autistic volunteers will visit the stadium to explain what they find challenging and suggest changes the club could make. All front-of-house staff at Pittodrie will also take part in an autism awareness raising session. The club already offers an autism-friendly box, which can be used by Dons fans who want to enjoy the game away from noisy crowds.

Steven Sweeney, community operations manager at Aberdeen Football Club, said, “Aberdeen Football Club and its partner charity Aberdeen FC Community Trust are inclusive organisations. If there is a barrier to why people can’t attend a match at Pittodrie then we do all we can to overcome it. We would like to thank The National Autistic Society Scotland and its Ellon Branch for all the guidance and support received to date. It has been great to involve autistic supporters in the process, and we look forward to championing a better public understanding of autism in the future.”

Hot on the heels of the city team is Peterhead Football Club, which has also committed to achieving our Autism Friendly Award – alongside Union Square, Scotrail’s Inverurie Rail Station, and Sport Aberdeen. In order to be successful, staff at these organisations will learn about autism and make small adjustments such as introducing quiet hours and providing chill out zones, which can make a big difference to autistic people.

Jo Hamilton, Head of Campaigns at The National Autistic Society Scotland, said,

We know that two thirds of autistic people in Scotland feel socially isolated – but we also know that very small adjustments can often make a big difference, meaning they can access and enjoy the places that many of us take for granted.

"Our Autism Friendly Award encourages organisations to learn about autism and make these adjustments. I’m so pleased that Aberdeen Football Club has kicked things off in the North East.”

Our Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire projects are being delivered in conjunction with Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnerships. They aim to increase autism awareness amongst people living in the North East, support autistic residents to develop social and independent travel skills, and leave a legacy of autism-friendly groups and activities.

Aberdeen Integration Joint Board chair, Jonathan Passmore, said, “The Dons are well known as a club which is at the heart of the local community, with an impressive track record of inclusivity and equality. The latest goal, to become Scotland’s first football club to achieve autism-friendly status, is typical of its high ambitions very much in the spirit of its long-standing commitment to make a positive impact on communities and individuals to enhance their life choices.”

Adam Coldwells, chief officer of Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership, said, “Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership tendered for a provider to deliver the Autism Friendly Aberdeenshire project last year and we are pleased to be working with The National Autistic Society Scotland on this initiative.

“The aim of this project is to build capacity as well as sustainable processes in communities across Aberdeenshire, which will allow autistic people to have improved access to services. It is great to see the football clubs, shopping centres and various attractions coming together to make life easier for autistic people.

We also hope it will lead to a better understanding of autism and to break down some of the barriers faced by autistic people on a daily basis.