Community partner Wests Tigers launch NRL-first autism friendly room

11 Jul 2018

In an NRL first, WestConnex community partner Wests Tigers have established a new autism friendly space at all ANZ Stadium home games, for children with autism and their families to enjoy the football.

Sydney Motorway Corporation (SMC) CEO Dennis Cliche said SMC, which is delivering WestConnex, has teamed up with the Wests Tigers to help support the delivery of successful community outreach programs and initiatives for people living in Western Sydney.

“WestConnex is proud to be a community partner of the Wests Tigers and support their efforts to offer an inclusive environment at each of their ANZ Stadium home games which is providing a fun, safe and comfortable space for children with autism and their families,” Mr Cliche said. “For children with autism, crowds and loud noises can be overwhelming, which can often prevent children and their families from coming along to football games.

“Through our partnership, Wests Tigers have expanded its suite of community programs to create positive social change and we’re thrilled to be supporting their vision to offer this unique space at their games.”

Wests Tigers co-captain Russell Packer whose son is on the autism spectrum, welcomed the new space for families which is enabling more people to take part and share in the fun and action of the footy.

“The calm space is an unbelievable initiative that will allow families to enjoy the experience of an NRL game without the stress that usually accompanies attending such a stimulating event,” Mr Packer said. “Having a son who is on the spectrum, I know how much effort goes into planning a trip to the footy.

Providing a place that caters for the needs of these special children will allow not only them but also their siblings and parents to relax and enjoy the games without fear of offending people who may not be aware of the struggles that come with raising a child on the spectrum.
“It would be my hope that other NRL clubs would follow the lead of the Wests Tigers and look to provide this great opportunity too.”

Wests Tigers Foundation Manager Shaun Spence said the autism friendly room was a joint initiative created in partnership with Autism Spectrum Australia (ASPECT) and WestConnex.

“Originally piloted in the English Premier League, we saw an opportunity to provide a similar space for fans at our ANZ stadium home games, Mr Spence said. “Already the feedback we’ve received as a result of creating this space has blown us away – it’s creating an inclusive environment and to see the smiles on the faces of kids who can now join us at our games is something very special.”

The autism friendly room will be available at the Wests Tigers upcoming home game on Saturday 21 July, 5.30pm at ANZ Stadium where they will take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Families wanting to find out more about the Autism Friendly room can contact the Wests Tigers at [email protected]