Soccer Sight

Many of the 300,000 people registered blind or partially-sighted across England are football fans.

With that in mind, West Ham United are one of an increasing number of clubs to provide dedicated matchday commentary for supporters with vision impairments.

Working in partnership with Soccer Sight - an Action for Blind People project aimed at providing quality football commentary to blind and partially sighted people at stadia across the country - the Hammers are leading the way.

West Ham fan James Datson (pictured) is one of the country's leading commentators for blind and partially-sighted fans, providing the service at both the Boleyn Ground and at Wembley, where he commentates on England internationals and major cup and Play-Off finals.

The 37-year-old, whose brother Matthew is blind, is rightly proud of the service he provides.

"I've been working for West Ham and Soccer Sight for nine seasons providing a 90-minute commentary for the visually-impaired and blind supporters of both clubs," said Datson.

"It opens up an opportunity for them to come and feel part of the atmosphere, rather than sit at home and listen to the game on the radio."

Datson explained that his commentary differs from that provided by a radio or television commentator as he is required to describe everything that is happening both on and off the pitch.

"It's slightly different from a radio commentary because the people listening to me are sat in the stadium and they can hear the sounds from the crowd or elsewhere.

"It may not have come from something to do with the action, so while I'm commentating on the match, I've got to let them know what is going on in the stands, the dugouts, players warming-up or how the players and managers have reacted to particular situation.

"That way, they can join in and be part of the atmosphere and I think that's what West Ham do well. We are one of the few clubs to offer this service and it is tailored specifically towards the needs of supporters so they feel part of things."

Datson explained that around 25 supporters utilise the Soccer Sight service at every home match.

"Working with the club's disability liaison officer Julie Pidgeon and her team, we provide headsets to fans the 25 we have are always taken up - either season ticket holders who are regular users or supporters using the service on a one-off visit.

"We would like to get more headsets, but it is a question of funding. That's also why there are not many other clubs who provide them."

Datson, who works as a learning mentor with youngsters at The Palmer Catholic Academy in Seven Kings as his day-job, is also helping other aspiring commentators to acquire the skills needed to provide the service at other clubs.

"I am a trainer and hold sessions to try to get other people involved. Most games this season, I have had another person sitting with me learning about how to commentate. The more people we can train the better.

"I have a deep-rooted love of sport through my job and I am also a big West Ham fan, so I thoroughly enjoy what I do. I hope the fans enjoy what I do, too!"