AN AUTISM campaigner has completed his quest to watch a match at all 92 English Football League grounds – teaching clubs about complex sensory conditions along the way.
Alex Manners, aged 22, is a Solihull College graduate, author and radio host who has Asperger’s syndrome – a form of autism.
He manages to divide his attention between informing people about autism and accommodating his love of football.
His crusade to watch a match at all top-tier English league clubs began at Birmingham City’s St Andrews stadium in 2007, when he was 10 years old.
And after more than 12 years travelling the nation, he completed his campaign last Saturday (April 13) at Glanford Park, home of Scunthorpe United, at the age of 22.
He said: “My uncle Tim has driven me up and down the country to every game and along the way we have created many memories and friendships.
“Last year, I started my very own ‘Autism and Football’ campaign, to enhance the experience of autistic people at football matches. “I have spoken and worked with many different clubs, advising them on how they can make their grounds and match days more accessible for autistic fans – including Arsenal, Watford and Swansea City.
“I have also worked on projects with Solihull Moors.
“My aim is to raise awareness and deliver talks to many clubs so they can better understand what autism and Asperger’s is like to live with and how football matches can be made more accessible for all.
“Most importantly, many of the solutions for improving the match day experience are simple and cost almost nothing to implement.”
A sports stadium can be an anxious environment for someone with a complex condition like autism, he says.
His recent Autism and Football campaign aims to combat difficulties faced by those with autism in football stadiums, like sensory overloads.
He was invited to visit Arsenal Football Club last year and try out their sensory room for autistic fans.
Arsenal are one of the clubs considering increased provision and special accommodation for those with autism and special needs.
Alex has written about Asperger’s for different publications and has also been active in raising awareness through the media.
Alex says he feels ‘lucky’ to have Asperger’s as it makes him the person he is today.