'I lost my sight but volunteer commentators allow me to follow Rangers'

Dozens of visually impaired football fans tune into 'pure magic' service that offers in-depth live commentary from inside the ground.

Blind and visually impaired football fans say they “wouldn’t be able to come to games” without the help of a long-running commentary service.

Many will take going along to games for granted – but for visually impaired supporters, it’s a different experience.

From making their way through the crowds, to navigating the stairs to their seats, fans face a number of challenges, before a ball is even kicked.

Rex Blind Party offers audio-descriptive commentary to dozens of fans with sight loss every week, delivered by commentators inside the ground, through an individual headset.

Thousands of supporters piled into Ibrox on Saturday to watch Rangers face Livingston in the Scottish Premiership, adorned in colourful shirts, scarves and flags.

Among them was Tommy Donnelly, who has been going to Rangers games for five decades. He lost his sight to retinitis pigmentosa eight years ago.

He told STV News: “I didn’t know I was going to lose my sight, I never ever thought I would, and I lost it gradually.

“[It was] very frustrating, not being able to watch the games in the same way. You couldn’t sit there and not know what was going on.”

Tommy said: “If I didn’t have the commentary I wouldn’t be able to come to the games. If I didn’t know what was going on, I’d have to sit at home and listen to the bloody wireless!

“The commentary’s absolutely pure magic. Very biased, which we like, and it tells you everything.

“They don’t miss a thing. The four commentators we’ve got are brilliant.”

The charity has been active in Scotland since 1937, and provides commentary at most grounds.

One of those commentators is Donald Whitelock, who’s been volunteering with the Rex Blind Party at Ibrox for 30 years.

He said: “If you listen to radio commentary, there’s quite a lot of summarising going on. Our summaries are much quicker, and we don’t have the experts. We just say what we see.

“We get the build up going, describing how full the stands are getting, talk about some of the flags that are waving.

“If the ball goes out or there’s a contentious free kick, people want to know exactly what’s happening. Who to boo, whether to shout at the referee, or moan at an opposition player.

“They just want to keep up with the excitement in the ground.”

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