National disabled people’s charity Revitalise has responded to the Inclusive and Accessible Stadia Report, published yesterday by the DWP and DCMS, and welcomes the Premier League’s pledge after years of inaction.
Revitalise’s own study, released to coincide with the start of the Premiership season, revealed a picture of poor match-day experiences, insufficient information and feelings of exclusion from the world’s richest league for disabled supporters.
Revitalise Chief Executive Chris Simmonds commented:
“Of course we welcome this undertaking by Premiership clubs to comply with the Accessible Stadia guidelines by August 2017, but all we can say is it’s about time.
“The Premiership has ignored repeated calls for action over the years and it’s only now that the Government has stepped in and the House of Lords is debating legislation that the clubs have finally fallen into line.
“We looked at what the Premiership was doing for disabled supporters before the start of the new season and found that all but three clubs had been unable to comply with simple guidelines that they signed up to over a decade ago!
“As a charity providing respite breaks for disabled people and carers, accessibility is an issue that’s very close to our hearts. We attempt to give our guests genuine holiday experiences and accessible excursions – including football stadium tours – are an integral part of what we do. We can assess the accessibility arrangements of each venue to which we take our guests, but individual disabled people sometimes don’t have that luxury. This is why we’re so keen to make public venues like football stadiums inclusive and accessible for all.
“Disabled supporters have an absolute right to expect the same enjoyable, socially inclusive experience as every other fan. They need more and better wheelchair spaces, better views, better info online and – just as important – the chance to spend time with their friends. We don’t think that’s too much to ask.”
The Revitalise study found that only three clubs in the world’s richest football league had the recommended number of spaces for wheelchair users, according to guidelines that have been in existence for over 10 years. Only AFC Bournemouth, Swansea City and Arsenal were found to be 100% compliant with the UEFA’s recommendation for wheelchair spaces, first published in the Accessible Stadia guidelines in 2003.
The charity is citing Bournemouth, a newcomer to the top flight, as an example of what can be achieved. The club has a 105 year-old stadium and a turnover one fifteenth of the Premiership average, yet has managed to fit twice the recommended number of wheelchair spaces into its stadium. If Bournemouth can achieve this, suggests Revitalise, there can be no excuse for any of the other clubs.
And if any more perspective were needed, Revitalise also discovered that the Championship is performing just as well as the Premiership in terms of accessibility, but on just a seventh of the turnover.*
Revitalise also surveyed wheelchair-using football supporters from each of the Premiership clubs and the football lovers among the charity’s own disabled guests, who painted a picture of poor match day experiences, feelings of exclusion and a lack of accessibility information from the world’s richest football league.
The survey found that, for 8 out of 10 (79%) wheelchair supporters, feeling socially included was ‘very important’ when attending a match, while the availability of access info online was ‘very important’ to 9 out of 10 (87%) wheelchair fans.
Disabled fans cited badly located (38%) and insufficient (34%) wheelchair spaces as major issues at matches, while the chance to be with friends (55%) and a better view of the action (57%) were the top two improvements they would like clubs to make.
Revitalise is calling for football clubs to up their game and meet their obligation to disabled supporters under the Equality Act by installing more and better facilities for disabled fans, as well as providing better quality access info online.
People wanting more information about Revitalise respite holidays are requested to call 0303 303 0145 or visit www.revitalise.org.uk.