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After 83 years, fan may turn his back on his club.

Byline: Sean Seddon Sunderland Reporter sean.seddon@trinitymirror.com @SESEDDON

A90-YEAR-OLD Sunderland fan has threatened to scrap his season ticket over a row with the club.

Ray Reed, a former miner from County Durham, has supported Sunderland AFC for 83 years.

As a young man he would walk 15 miles from his hometown of Blackhall Colliery to Roker Park to watch his team play.

But a "health and safety" argument over where to store his wheelchair has forced him and his family to contemplate turning their back on it all.

His granddaughter, Layla Reed, 35, from Hartlepool, said that he begun finding it difficult to walk from his car to the stadium following a stroke three years ago.

They started using a foldable wheelchair to get him to his seat which was then stored in a nearby room by stewards.

But she says that arrangement suddenly changed.

She said: "A head steward collared us at the beginning of last season to say that this would be the last match they would store the chair.

"They said that a health and safety rule had come up so now we have to get my granddad in, take the chair back to the car and then get back to our seats.

"The stewards were happy to take the chair and store it in the press room - they are just as baffled by this decisions as us.

"That means leaving him alone if we're not both there and walking against 40,000 fans.

"And if the ground had to be evacuated there is no way he could get out of it without his wheelchair nearby."

Layla, her father Alan Reed, 59, and Ray drive from Hartlepool for every home game - but are all prepared to get rid of their season tickets.

Layla said: "He's really upset and after 83 years he is thinking of turning his back on the club."

Layla did, however, pay tribute to Chris Waters, the clubs supporter liaison officer, who has worked with the family to try and find a solution.

A spokesperson from the club said: "Ray is a long-standing supporter of many years and naturally we have been keen to do all we can to ensure he can continue to attend games.

"To this end, we met with Mr. Reed at the start of last season in relation to access and the storage of his father's wheelchair and he was happy with the solution we afforded at that time, which included complimentary parking at the stadium to help make Ray's journey to games as easy as possible.

"We have spoken recently with Mr Reed regarding the issue and we are happy to discuss the matter again with him directly to ensure that he is happy with the solutions we provided."

Layla, who is a support worker, says a disability space is not right for her grandfather and he is reluctant to leave the seat he has occupied for nearly a decade.

She said: "He is not disabled and those spaces are better for people who can't get out of their chairs.

"I know how important those space are for people with genuine disabilities - my granddad doesn't want that or need that."

CAPTION(S):

As a young man Ray Reed used to walk 15 miles from his home in Blackhall Colliery to Roker Park to watch his beloved Sunderland. But now he's ready to hand in his Stadium of Light season ticket Simon Greener

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 31, 2016
Words:575
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