Wembley Stadium becomes first national stadium to become dementia friendly, as part of The FA’s partnership with Alzheimer’s Society

13 June 2023

The Football Association  has worked with its official charity partner, Alzheimer’s Society, to put in place a series of improvements to the iconic Wembley Stadium, changing the game for fans with dementia.

After an audit of the stadium by people affected by dementia, who were invited to attend two matchdays and provide feedback, several supporting measures have been put in place to improve accessibility and increase understanding and knowledge of dementia.

Measures include bespoke training to public-facing staff like matchday stewards, information on ticketing receipts and the Wembley Stadium website and increased visibility of current services available, such as its dedicated lifts and accessible shuttle service.

As well as becoming the first national stadium to become dementia friendly, The FA is backing Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friendly Sports Clubs and Venues guide. The new guidance is designed for grounds and stadiums of all sizes, to help make sure all fans are supported, understood and know where to get help on gamedays.

The landmark guidance has already resulted in The Premier League and The Racecourse Association all pledging their commitment to become dementia friendly.

Alzheimer’s Society CEO, Kate Lee, said: “Passion for sport stays with people long after a dementia diagnosis, so these improvements to one of the world’s most iconic football stadiums, in a national first, is set to be another legacy of our fantastic partnership with The FA and will make a massive difference to thousands of fans up and down the country.

“We want to see all sports showing their commitment to giving fans with dementia a smooth journey from sofa to stands and we’re really pleased to see our landmark guidance be so well received by organisations across multiple sports. We hope it helps foster a more inclusive, accessible and welcoming environment for sports fans with dementia, so they can continue to be at the heart of the action.”

Director of Wembley Stadium, Liam Boylan, added: “The changes we’ve made at Wembley are the first steps in ensuring that those who are affected by dementia are not excluded from the beautiful game and can continue to enjoy the sport they love safe in the knowledge that their support and wellbeing is our top priority.

“Sport has an unrivalled ability to inform, educate and put a spotlight on important issues and we look forward to continue working closely with Alzheimer’s Society to raise funds and awareness to help provide desperately-needed support to the 900,000 people with dementia in the UK.”

Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friendly Sports Clubs and Venues guide was created by Alzheimer’s Society’s Sport United Against Dementia Board, which funded a dedicated role at the start of last year, including contributions from the Premier League and other sporting stakeholders. The charity has engaged directly with clubs from multiple sports, professional bodies and people affected by dementia, with the aim of sharing best practice and identifying key challenges and positive solutions.

There are 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK, enough to fill Wembley 10 times over. Whilst great sport should be unforgettable, sporting venues present unique challenges to those living with dementia. Many find matchdays too disorientating and overwhelming, particularly due to large crowds and noise levels, the size of the venue and inability to communicate.

As well as case studies from the Premier League, clubs who fed into the guidance include Swansea City AFC, who partnered with Alzheimer’s Society Cymru in July 2021. The club set up a working group of fans affected by dementia and implemented a series of improvements such as new signage and first and last steps within the stadium painted red to assist those with perception issues.

Jonathan Pinkney, the son of Brighton and Hove Albion season ticket holder, John Pinkney, who lives with dementia, said: “Dad has been a life-long Brighton fan, but his dementia diagnosis changed everything. It proved really difficult to use public transport after his diagnosis. He gets anxious if it gets too busy and crowded, especially when queueing. But on the few occasions I have needed help from Brighton FC’s stewards, they have been incredibly supportive.

“Going to a football game is great because for 90 minutes, it’s just dad being dad like he always was. That’s why Alzheimer’s Society’s work to make stadiums dementia friendly is fantastic.”

The FA has extended its official charity partnership with Alzheimer’s Society until July 2024. The partnership has already made a tangible impact - over the past two seasons, the partnership has raised over £400,000, with thousands more fans, players and staff now knowing where to go to access vital dementia support.

If you’re worried about dementia and need more information or support, contact Alzheimer’s Society. Visit www.alzheimers.org.uk or call 0333 150 3456.

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Additional quotes:

Head of Community at the Premier League, Nick Perchard, said: “The importance of creating an inclusive atmosphere for fans is of paramount importance to the Premier League and its clubs. We have made steps to ensure a number of our clubs are dementia-friendly by building awareness of the condition and breaking down the stigma, meaning supporters with dementia can continue to enjoy their matchdays and support the clubs they love. We look forward to seeing this landmark guidance rolled out further into the game and making a meaningful difference to families affected by dementia.”

Raceday Experience and Communications Manager at the Racecourse Association, Paul Swain, said: “There are around 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and  the fear of being unable to enjoy watching the sports they love after a diagnosis is all too common. We’re working closely with Alzheimer’s Society and backing its landmark guidance to keep fans at the heart of unforgettable racing moments as part of British horseracing’s ongoing commitment to inclusion”.

Swansea City AFC Head of Hospitality, Events and Fan Engagement, Catherine Thomas, said: “We have worked closely with Alzheimer’s Society Cymru over the past few years to build provisions which make the club and stadium as dementia friendly as possible. We strive to make a real difference to families impacted by dementia. As well as providing ear defenders if noise mitigation is required at our games, we also have an inclusion room which can provide a quiet space to watch the game during matches while our disability liaison officers have undergone dementia friends training and are on hand to help in any way they can.”

Notes to Editors

About Alzheimer’s Society

  • To find out more about Alzheimer’s Society’s work with sport, including its partnership with The FA, visit alzheimers.org.uk/unforgettable-sport
  • To find out more about Alzheimer’s Society’s Sport United Against Dementia Board, visit alzheimers.org.uk/SUAD
  • Alzheimer’s Society’s SUAD Board includes representatives from the Premier League, the Racecourse Association and many more leading organisations.
  • Alzheimer's Society is a vital source of support and a powerful force for change for everyone affected by dementia. We provide help and hope.
  • Dementia devastates lives. Alzheimer’s Society research shows that 900,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia. By 2025, 1 million people will be living with the condition in the UK, and many millions more carers, partners, families and friends are affected.
  • Dementia deaths are rising year on year and 225,000 will develop dementia this year - that’s one every three minutes.
  • Too many face dementia alone. Alzheimer’s Society wants everyone affected by dementia to know that whoever they are, whatever they’re going through, they can turn to us for expert support through practical advice, emotional support, and guidance for the best next step.