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Outrage over pitch wheelchair ban

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By Lewis Irons
Dumfries and West
Outrage over pitch wheelchair ban

A YOUTH football coach has been told he is not allowed on two artificial pitches in the region - because he is in a wheelchair.

But although 25-year-old Connor Fergusson from Dumfries is now faced with having to crawl along the sidelines on his hands and knees after the ruling by Greystone Rovers and Mid-Annandale FC, the pitch’s manufacturers say there is no reason for banning the chair.
Connor said: “I’m shocked to be honest, but at the time it happened I was just worried about how I was going to coach.
“So I didn’t fight it, I just thought, ok.”
Shocked to be told his chair would not be allowed onto the pitches, he added: “It was embarrassing and I felt intimidated. When I was on my way home afterwards I got quite upset about it.”
Connor was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome four years ago.
But he has been determined to serve as Heston Rovers’ under-15s coach.
Chairman of Mid-Annandale FC Allan Agnew defended the actions of his club, claiming that they are ‘following guidelines’ set-out by the surface manufacturers Greenfields.
He said: “We’ve got a state-of-the-art surface which was provided by the council and we want that to remain in good condition.
“We were informed by Greenfields that wheelchairs shouldn’t go on the pitches because it can damage them, so we are just following guidelines.”
UK managing director of Greenfields Paul Milton claims this is not the case.
He said: “We actually have pitches at a disability school called Cleaswell Hill in Northumberland and informing a club or community that wheelchairs are not allowed on the surface is something we wouldn’t do.”
He added: “If wheelchairs are on the surface they can flatten the yarn, but this simply calls for maintenance that should be carried out anyway in accordance with our guidelines.
“To me this sounds like misinterpretation from the club.”
Greystone Rovers deny the allegations, claiming they have never asked Connor to crawl on his hands and knees.
A club spokesman said: “As a Foundation we pride ourselves on being involved in the local community and are actively involved in multiple projects working with a range of age groups, disabilities and would never discriminate against any disabled person.”
But Connor recalls the moment he was forced to stay off the pitches in his chair.
He said: “People at Greystone told me to stay behind a barrier which is far away from the pitch and is five foot high so I couldn’t see over it.
“I had to crawl from the barrier to the centre of the pitch just to coach the boys. The club would rather I crawled than went on in my wheelchair.”
Connor will not let further set-backs stop him from continuing his passion for coaching football.
He said: “I’m going on to my C licence next and after that it’s the UEFA badges and something like this won’t stop me from doing that.” But he added: “Because half of the away games for us are on artificial pitches it’s now getting to the point where I get nervous at the thought of turning up to grounds to be told I won’t be able to coach from my wheelchair.
“I just want to do what I love.”

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