WELCOME to a new weekly feature in conjunction with the Oxford United fan groups OxVox and Oxford United Supporters’ Panel (OUSP), as we hear from them throughout the summer on all manner of U’s matters.

We’ll be getting views from the two groups on a range of subjects, including topics on and off the pitch.

Those may include the summer transfer window, hopes and ambitions for the 2023/24 season, favourite moments following United, and the ongoing stadium project.

This week, we caught up with OUSP secretary Janine Bailey to find our more about inclusivity for fans.

READ AGAIN: OxVox discuss origins, stadium project and how football can be a force for good

OUSP is a group of supporters nominated by fellow fans who meet regularly with the club to ensure supporters’ views on the matchday experience are considered.

One of our key aims is to improve inclusivity for supporters. OUFC and the vast majority of our supporters are welcoming and accepting of diversity in the fanbase.

The club supports national campaigns such as Rainbow Laces (against homophobia) and Level Playing Field (improving disability access), which play an important part in raising awareness.

OUSP gets involved at a local level, listening to our fans and suggesting adjustments and considerations to make our matches even more welcoming for all.

For example, we suggested holding online forums for disabled fans and carers.

Several fans attended the first meeting in April. Their varied experience of disability contributed to a wide-ranging discussion, from the impact of colour blindness to buying tickets for away games.

Everyone had the opportunity to raise points around current issues as well as making suggestions of ways in which the new stadium could enhance their matchday.

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Did you know that the only raised wheelchair platform at the current stadium is in the North Stand and has insufficient space for all our wheelchair users?

In other stands, wheelchairs are placed in the front row, where ballboys/girls, stewards, assistant referees and even the manager often block their view by standing in sightlines.

By raising awareness, we hope to reduce the problem in the short-term.

Looking ahead to a new stadium, the group made a case for including raised viewing areas in all stands so that wheelchair users can have similar choices to other fans.

They also suggested allocating a number of seats so that family or friendship groups can sit with the wheelchair user, rather than just a personal assistant as now.

OUSP member, Grace, is the Her Game Too ambassador for Oxford United, working to help women and girls feel that they belong in football.

The simple inclusion of free sanitary products in the women’s toilets means that if caught out unexpectedly, our female fans don’t need to leave the stadium.

Many girls attend football matches with male family and friends, which can make these situations awkward.

Additionally, young people benefit from visible role models they can identify with, so it’s really important to have female role models for girls interested in football.

OUSP supported Grace in organising an evening with some outstanding women working at Oxford United, hosted by the BBC’s Robyn Cowen.

It was an inspiring evening with speakers including Amy Cranston, OUFC’s head of medical, and one of the first women in this role in the league.

It was encouraging for the girls attending to hear about the range of opportunities becoming available.

There are rare occasions when some supporters cross the line from banter to discrimination.

Sexist, racist, ableist or homophobic comments can be the reason someone does not return to support us.

Fans have told us that they wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable reporting these incidents to stewards, so we are working with the club to better promote the ‘Report It’ text service.

This allows fans to discreetly report incidents at the time. It’s important to have this option in place just in case they are needed to maintain the inclusive, family-friendly character of our football club.

These are just some examples of how supporters can contribute to making our matches welcoming to all.

We are pleased to support the setting up of Proud Yellows this season, and look forward to working with them.

Would you like help to set up a specific group? Do you have an idea of other things that could be done? If you think we can help then contact us ouspinfo@gmail.com