Rhino Sensory UK were delighted to design and install an inclusive sensory room at Premier League Club Chelsea FC.

The goal of the sensory area was to enable fans with special needs and disabilities, like autism, to enjoy watching a live football match and to also make the stadium’s facilities more inclusive.

Why do people with Autism and Special Needs find Football Stadiums overwhelming?

Every weekend football stadiums are brought to life by crowds of devoted fans, who are excited to see their favourite team play, and hopefully, win. It’s an electrifying environment. Although, it can sometimes be a little too electric for some people, especially for those on the Autism Spectrum.

Bright lights, loud music and a lively atmosphere can easily cause a sensory overload, which can be a nightmare for any fan to deal with.

Autism affects over 700,000 people in the UK. And according to a 2014 NAS survey of individuals, families and carers affected by autism, 43% of those don’t engage in sport because of their sensory difficulties.

Over the years autistic football fans have tried all sorts of solutions to try and make themselves feel comfortable during matchday; wearing ear defenders, sitting in a quieter part of the stadium, and even arranging to sit in an executive box in the hope that the stadium atmosphere would be trapped outside. Though nothing seemed to truly work, resulting in many fans having to leave halfway through the match because of their sensory overload.

The Sensory Space

Rhino Sensory UK designed and installed a special sensory room for Chelsea FC. Themed in classic Chelsea Blue and filled with fabulous football themed sensory resources – the new space was perfect for fans to still feel as involved with the match.

Fans can marvel at the match through a special glass viewing area, which lets them watch the players score on the football field, but other fans aren’t able to look back through the glass and into the sensory room. This gives users full privacy when using the room, making it even more comfortable for them.

In the viewing area is a bespoke football-themed tactile panel, that fans can distract themselves with, keeping them calm and relaxed whilst watching the game.

The room has a bubble tube which acts as a very effective, visually pleasing and interactive sensory centrepiece. Users can sit on comfortable floor padding or a football-themed beanbag right in front of the bubble tube and play with twinkling fibre optic tails, which change colour and provide marvellous visual stimulation.

On the wall is an infinity tunnel that gives an optical illusion of infinite depth. The tunnel has sound-sensitive changing colours that rotate at different speeds depending on the level of sound. The full length of a wall is washed with LED lighting creating a beautiful, bright and intense visual effect. The colours can change through the colour spectrum, and users can choose which colours they’d like to see through the use of an interactive dice controller.

Another striking element of the room is its projector, which shines bespoke Chelsea FC themed effect wheels onto the walls of the room, creating a space that any Chelsea fan would be excited to visit.

In another area of the room is a fixed OmiReflex, which is an interactive, wall projection system. The system projects dynamic images that respond to users movements and displays a live image of the player within the game. With over 300 games to choose from this system is guaranteed to bring hours of entertainment.

The Outcome

The Sensory Room was officially launched on the 5th of May by Chelsea FC players Gary Cahill and Toni Rüdiger ahead of their match against Liverpool FC.

The two defenders joined pupils from Queensmill School for the launch and they saw with their own eyes how the sensory room is designed to provide a safe, controlled and stress-free environment. A space where children with autism or other sensory needs can enjoy the game at their own pace.

We hope the sensory room continues to bring hours of enjoyment to Chelsea FC fans and anyone else who is lucky enough to visit.